Arkansas hospital faces COVID-19 patient surge after missing out on hot-spot funding

Washington Regional Medical Center in Fayetteville, Ark., did not qualify for the initial round of federal aid for hospitals in COVID-19 hot spots, but it is now seeing a surge in COVID-19 patients, according to a report by the American Hospital Association. 

Like other hospitals across the U.S., Washington Regional postponed non-emergent procedures in March to prepare for the pandemic’s impact. However, it was months after canceling non-emergent surgeries that the hospital began seeing an uptick in COVID-19 cases. 

On May 12, Washington Regional Medical Center had one COVID-19 patient. By June 24, 96 percent of its 40 intensive care unit beds were occupied and a 20-bed COVID-19 ICU was completely full. 

Though the hospital has seen a recent increase in COVID-19 cases, it didn’t qualify for the first round of funding HHS distributed to hospitals treating a large number of COVID-19 patients. The funding was split between hospitals with 100 or more COVID-19 admissions between Jan. 1 and April 10. 

The hospital has received about $10.5 million in government aid related to the pandemic, but more assistance is needed. The hospital’s net patient service revenue declined $14 million in April alone, CEO Larry Shackelford told the AHA. 

The hospital has taken several steps to offset financial damage linked to the pandemic, including furloughing 350 of its 3,000 employees and reducing the hours of 360 workers. 

Mr. Shackelford told the AHA that financial pressures leave the hospital in a vulnerable position, and he hopes future federal relief aid is distributed to hospitals in current hot spots, like Fayetteville. 

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