The COVID-19 pandemic is straining Hawaii's hospitals. It's not just a question of capacity, it's also a matter of finances.
The Healthcare Association of Hawaii is the nonprofit trade organization for facilities ranging from small senior care homes to the state’s largest hospital systems. It says that by the end of this year, the COVID-19 pandemic will leave Hawaii’s hospitals with $580 million in losses.
Hilton Raethel, executive director of the Healthcare Association of Hawaii, says the half-billion-dollar problem comes from both lost revenues and increased costs.
On the revenue side, hospitals delayed elective procedures to prepare for a possible wave of COVID-19 patients. They’ve since resumed regular operations, but potential patients, now anxious about possibly catching the virus in healthcare settings, continue to postpone their own care.
On the cost side, expenses are up, for both everyday items and due to the expense of caring for suspected or confirmed COVID patients. Raethel tells PBN that hospitals are using personal protective equipment at 5 to 10 times the usual amount. And the price of PPE has soared: the pre-pandemic price for a single N95 mask was about $1 to $1.50 each. The price peaked this year at $6 per mask and has since settled down to between $4 and $4.50 per mask.
The CARES Act included money to help hospitals nationwide with both problems: lost revenue and COVID care. However, Hawaii’s hospitals combined received about $156 million, covering only about 27% of their losses. And this is just for 2020, hospitals are bracing for the conditions driving these losses to persist into next year.