FRANKFORT, Ky. (KT) - Kentucky hospitals were the topics of discussion during a meeting of the Interim Joint Appropriations and Revenue Committee on Wednesday.
A $35 million forgivable loan approved by the state, along with $50 million from funding from private foundations, helped UofL Health purchase Kentucky One Health last year, including the Jewish Hospital system.
Tom Miller, CEO of UofL Health, told the panel, “Without your support and that of local foundations, jobs and access to care would have been in jeopardy in our community. We could not have gone forward without your help.”
Miller noted that while most people don’t think of health care in economic development terms, “I suspect more people come into Louisville for health care, (more) than any other retail business. We are one of the several economic development engines in our community. We provide care for patients in every county in the state, we have over 12,000 part-time and full-time team members, we are the only dedicated burn center, we’re one of two organ transplant centers in the state and we provide telemedicine access across all of the commonwealth.”
He said UofL Health has met every objective they outlined to lawmakers last year, despite effects from the coronavirus pandemic amounting to $93 million, $31 million of which was offset by CARES Act funding.
“We have been successful in integrating Kentucky One Health and UofL Health into a system while dealing with the pandemic, community social unrest and the difficulty of insurers in credentialing our doctors,” Miller testified.
Other successes since the purchase, according to Miller, “We have raised our quality scores, that were reported here last year as an 'F' to a 'C,' and almost a 'B,' he said. “We have partnered with the state to do hundreds of COVID tests a day, and we are investing in our rural communities in medically underserved areas.”
Miller also said they have met all state loan conditions regarding employment. “It was required for us to have 5,880 full-time Kentucky jobs. We are over 6,000 today and are trying to add 200 more right now. Our average hourly rate was required to be over $35, and it is. We are meeting the needs of the underserved by investing in new clinics in West Louisville and in our rural communities.”
Nancy Galvagni, president of the Kentucky Hospital Association, also spoke before the panel and said the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the state’s hospitals are no less than any other business, especially when elective procedures were halted due to fears of a surge.
“Kentucky hospital losses, just in 2020 from responding to COVID-19, are estimated to exceed $2.6 billion. Despite heroic efforts by Kentucky’s federal delegation in Congress to put a tourniquet on our losses, federal relief funds have covered less than one half of that amount,” she said.
“Hospitals large and small, rural or urban, independent or part of a system, in every corner of the commonwealth, have been hit and hit hard,” she said. “Despite the ongoing financial challenges, you can rest assured our hospitals are doing an excellent job of managing their capacity. While we do continue to see local surges, hospitals are not overrun by COVID-19 patients.”
Galvagni said her association works with the hospitals daily to ensure capacity and personal protective equipment needs are met.
Fear is another factor in the ongoing financial losses. “While inpatient treatment has returned to 85% of pre-COVID levels, emergency room use has never really rebounded above 70%,” she stated.
She said she has heard stories of people who might have been saved if they went to the ER at the first signs of a heart attack or stroke.
Her message to lawmakers: “You can help us by assuring your constituents that our hospitals are some of the safest places they can visit. Hospitals are taking extraordinary precautions to make sure that sick people can safely get care.”