Wisconsin hospitals survived the worst of the pandemic. But a new report shows challenges ahead


Wisconsin hospitals rebounded from the pandemic, however staffing shortages, employee burnout and report inflation may spell bother, in accordance with an business report.

The state’s largest healthcare programs posted $4 billion in income final yr, buoyed by COVID-19 reduction assist, robust investments and the return of delayed elective operations, in accordance with the report by the Wisconsin Hospital Affiliation. However this yr’s monetary outlook is unsure. 

“We’re nonetheless in a public well being emergency,” stated Brian Potter, senior vice chairman of finance for the Wisconsin Hospital Affiliation. He described the previous few years as a “curler coaster.” 

The WHA report drew from information in its fiscal yr and annual surveys of 18 of the state’s largest healthcare programs. It discovered Wisconsin hospitals generated $27.7 billion in whole income final yr. And 21 of the state’s hospitals misplaced cash final yr, down from 32 in 2020. 

When the pandemic struck in 2020, the state suspended its elective companies as individuals hunkered at dwelling.

Nationally, state hospitals and well being care programs collected $134 billion via the federal supplier reduction funds, and of that, Wisconsin acquired greater than $1 billion, the report stated. 

“When you do not see sufferers, you additionally do not create income to your group. And within the meantime, you understand, we had stored our crew absolutely employed, after which we’re paying the payments,” stated John Russell, WHA board member, president and CEO of Prairie Ridge Well being in Columbus, Wisconsin. “The CARES Act funding, the supplier reduction funds, had been essential.” 

These federal {dollars} had been a lifeline, business leaders say, however that was one-time funding that made the 2021 monetary outcomes look good.

In response to the report, income have been down up to now this fiscal yr. Regardless of that problem, filling jobs is essentially the most urgent difficulty for some.

“Our greatest wrestle proper now’s the workforce,” Russell stated. Prices are up because the hospital wrestles with inflation and appears to fill open jobs for registered nurses, docs and technicians, he stated. 

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Laura Mays, the general public relations director for Stoughton Hospital, has been with the group for over a decade. She stated she’s by no means seen so many job openings till now. 

“Persons are drained. It has been a difficult three years, and there may be burnout. However there may be additionally hope,” she stated. 

Nonetheless, inflation is compounding issues confronted by the healthcare business, particularly as suppliers attempt to discover methods to chop prices, Potter stated.

Russell, of Prairie Ridge Well being, stated his hospital is locked right into a three-year contract with insurance coverage firms for a hard and fast reimbursement quantity, nevertheless it would not account for the 40-year report excessive inflation.

“Simply give it some thought from your individual perspective,” he stated. “In case your wage is remaining unchanged from yr to yr, and your bills are going up by over 8 p.c, that is cash you are simply not going to make, proper?” he stated.

Advocate Aurora, the most important healthcare supplier within the state, confirmed it is also enduring financial difficulties. 

“Like well being programs throughout the nation, we now have skilled critical working monetary challenges. Prices have elevated considerably due largely to labor shortages, provide chain points and inflationary pressures on bills,” the spokesperson wrote in an e-mail. “As accountable stewards of our sources, we’re utilizing these challenges as a possibility to enhance well being care supply whereas lowering prices.”

Whereas every healthcare system grapples with its personal points, Russell stated, rural hospitals are taking a private hit. 

“In rural communities, we see our group members sick. They’re our pals or neighbors. And that takes a toll on you,” he stated.