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Healthcare facilities take financial hit during the pandemic

Local News

The healthcare industry is the frontline of the coronavirus pandemic, and hospitals, clinics and workers are not immune to the virus, or to major financial loss.

Some western North Dakota facilities are seeing fewer patients coming through their doors, resulting in lost revenue, and in some cases, furloughed employees.

“The most recent example of that would be the Ebola scare from a few years back,” shared Curtis Furman, Chief Operating Officer at Mid Dakota Clinic.

During the 2014 Ebola virus outbreak that Furman is referring to, the Bismarck healthcare facility did implement similar cautionary measures, like you’re seeing now.

But the financial impact today, is unprecedented.

“We have reduced or eliminated nearly all elective surgeries for the past several weeks,” Furman said.

But that’s just part of the story. Although Mid Dakota says things have picked up a little since May 1, the walk-in clinic has been looking rather barren these days.

“There are times where we may not see in patients in the clinic for one of two hours, which is very alarming because as we’ve mentioned, there are illnesses that are out there,” shared Dr. Robert Tanous, Medical Director at Mid Dakota.

Dr. Tanous, who works as an Internal Medicine Physician at Mid Dakota’s Today Clinic, says they’ve seen a 50 to 60 percent decrease in patients coming in.

“In the beginning, we thought we’d be overwhelmed as far as in the outpatient setting, but actually it’s been the opposite,” he shared.

Sanford Health in Bismarck has seen a similar effect with patients putting off important care, which both worries healthcare professionals and affects revenue.

“What I can tell you is financially, we’re just like every industry that you’ve talked to. Have we seen the effects on our financial stability, absolutely,” said Fred Fridley, Chief Operating Officer at Sanford Health Bismarck.

Fridley says Sanford hasn’t had to lay off or furlough any employees in the region, but they have been forced to cut staff hours in some instances.

“But we’ve had to flex to volumes, where we’ve had to have staff take some days off and take their PTO,” Fridley added.

CHI St. Alexius didn’t speak with KX News on camera, but a representative says they have not laid off staff.

In mid-April, Trinity Health in Minot furloughed 350 employees, and the hospital reported its executive team and middle-management staff took on salary reductions of 10 to 20 percent, respectively.

Furman says temporary furloughs also became necessary at Mid Dakota. The healthcare facility has not laid off any employees.

When KX News asked him how many employees have been furloughed, he responded, “I’d rather not share that.”

Mid Dakota CEO Marvin Lein could not disclose how much revenue loss the facility has taken on, but says he’s confident that in a few months, the clinic will be as strong as ever. And Furman says they’re doing everything they can to bring staff back on as they see patient levels rise back to normal levels.

“This is a scary time. We are seeing a little bit of a light at the end of the tunnel right now…it’s progressing slowly,” Furman shared.

Fridley says Sanford has taken similar financial hits in the past, so they were prepared to adjust.

“We’re never going to affect patient care in our decisions and what we do from a financial standpoint. We’re going to continue to purchase the equipment that we need to for safe patient care as we continue down this path, and really for as long as this is going to go,” he said.

Sanford Health and Mid Dakota want to emphasize, they are open and safe to come into. If you have urgent or chronic healthcare needs, Dr. Tanous says please see your regular doctor.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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