Evan Wheaton/Malone Telegram

MALONE — A better-than-expected close to the 2020 Fiscal year and millions of dollars in federal stimulus funds could not keep Alice Hyde Medical Center from experiencing a loss of more than $2.4 million through the first three months of the 2021 fiscal year, due to the novel coronavirus pandemic, despite “largely defraying” financial impact through its federal funds, facility officials said.

Alice Hyde’s 2021 fiscal year began on Oct. 1.

The operating loss of over $2 million through Dec. 31 was offset by the hospital bringing on just over $1 million in CARES Act stimulus funds over that same window of time. This brought Alice Hyde’s net operating loss for the period of Oct. 1 through Dec. 31 to $1.3 million.

The financial hit is due to the pandemic’s continuous depression of patient volumes for outpatient medical care and procedures, officials said.

Alice Hyde President Michelle LeBeau said the hospital is in “an unsustainable financial position” with the pandemic’s financial impacts mounting.

Alice Hyde and UVM Health Network Chief Financial Officer Christopher Hickey said the first quarter loss was driven completely by patient volumes that are lagging behind pre-pandemic numbers. Through New Year’s Eve, officials did not foresee the hospital reporting lower-than expected numbers for gastroenterology patient visits, a minus 59.8%. This category suffered the largest volume dropoff. Births trailed this percentage decrease at minus 41%. Adult or pediatric discharges and outpatient surgeries were both categories that came in at around minus 39%. Outpatient clinic visits sustained a more shallow drop of minus 18.8%.

“Over the summer and beginning of fall last year, we were starting to see the return of volumes to normal levels,” Hickey said. “However, the reemergence of COVID-19 completely reversed that trend.”

Alice Hyde trimmed more than $1.26 million in expenses — mostly through leaving open positions unfilled. It would need to continue finding means of reducing its operating expenses and align with lower patient volumes, the financial officer added. “We are in a position of having to continue to challenge everything about the way we operated before COVID-19.”

LeBeau said whether patients will return in the ways accustomed to prior to the pandemic is unknown, a factor that each hospital faces.

“That’s a question we can’t answer, so we must focus on the things we can control — operational improvements, managing expenses, and aligning our resources with our community’s needs as they are right now,” she said. “The past year is proof that Alice Hyde has remained true to our mission despite the pandemic’s challenges. That’s a commitment we will continue to keep, even as we search for ways to place our organization on a sustainable path forward.”

The hospital’s financial loss through the first quarter of its new fiscal year is a second “dramatic shift in its financial position since late last year,” officials said.

Alice Hyde officials in November reported they expected to end the 2020 fiscal year with an operating deficit of $1.4 million, while posting revenues of $95.3 million and expenses of $96.7 million. Its revenue for that fiscal year included more than $10 million in federal stimulus dollars through the CARES Act.

The 2020 fiscal projection was based on revenue collection rates of 34.4%, officials said. The year-end audit had the hospital’s collection rate at 35%. This resulted in a $1.4 million increase in revenue for the 2020 year, causing the hospital to report a break-even budget.

“That’s a tremendous achievement given the challenges presented by the pandemic,” LeBeau said, attributing it to the efforts of the facility’s workers.

“Like many health care organizations, despite that great result, 2021 continues to present significant challenges to our organization, and we must continue to focus on finding ways to respond and lead the conversation about the future of health care in our region.”

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