WAHOO – Despite a loss of revenue due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the financial picture at Saunders Medical Center (SMC) looks healthy.

That’s what Chief Financial Officer/Chief Operating Officer Chase Manstedt told the Saunders Medical Center Board of Trustees during the monthly meeting on May 26, which was held via teleconference.

Manstedt told the board that SMC experienced a decline in volume in April because of COVID-19. As a result, there was a $182,000 shortfall in net services and $482,000 loss of revenue overall.

The decline in volume and resulting loss of revenue are a result of a change in consumer behavior because of the pandemic, and the state’s mandate to stop elective procedures, according to Manstedt.

“People are staying home and out of health care facilities,” he said during a follow up interview on Friday.

However, things are looking better for May, he noted, after SMC received two COVID-19 stimulus payments from Health and Human Services through the CARES Act that total about $564,000 to offset lost revenue. The money is seen as a safety net from HHS to ensure SMC has the funds to take care of patients and the facility, Manstedt said. The facility also participated in the Paycheck Protection Program to keep employees on the payroll during the pandemic.

The facility also received a $3.7 million payment from the Medicare Advanced and Accelerated Program, but will likely return that money in the next few months, Manstedt said. The Medicare funds came before they knew about the HHS money, so they accepted it without knowing there were other funds coming.

“The message is that we’ve had shortfalls, we’ve been slow but through government intervention we’re actually sitting in better position than before COVID,” he said.

Board Member Greg Hohl, who is the member of the finance committee, said he was happy with SMC’s financial position.

“I’m pleased with the April finances and cash position of the hospital,” he said.

The stimulus money was a large factor in determining the fiscal year 2021 budget, which the board approved. Manstedt said the budget includes a 3 percent increase in revenue and expenditures, which he called “modest growth overall.”

This was an unusual budget cycle for SMC, Manstedt said.

“COVID made this budget cycle a little bit interesting,” he said.

Manstedt and Carrie Stephens used the first nine months of fiscal year 2020 as a baseline to work on the new budget. During that time period, things were working “at a great pace” for SMC, according to Manstedt. The HHS and Medicare payments were also factored into the new budget.

“There’s a high likelihood this budget is very much attainable due to the receipt of these funds,” he told the board.

The budget plans for strategic growth in several areas of facility. In areas hard hit by the pandemic like surgery, the expected growth is up to 25 percent to fall back in line with previous years, Manstedt said.

Expenditures will also increase at a modest rate in 2021, with a 3.5 percent increase in salaries. The budget also includes a plan to upgrade the magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) equipment and purchase a new computerized tomography (CT) scanner. Manstedt said both are vital to making the facility profitable.

Manstedt told the board that the budget’s success depends on the future of the pandemic.

“Obviously it does require that we return to normal by July,” he said.

Julie Rezac, SMC’s new chief executive officer, updated the board on COVID-19 testing at the facility. She said as of May 26, they had conducted 172 tests, with seven positive results. They had 73 tests available to use at the time of her report, which is higher than the number they normally have. As the long term care facility at SMC opens for limited visitors, they may require more kits if all residents will be needed to be tested, she added during a follow up interview on Friday.

Public testing at SMC is done at a drive-through area in the ambulance bay, Rezac said, which keeps the patients out of the building, where they continue to work to keep the facility as clean as possible.

With the long term care facility attached to the hospital, the administration and staff are focused on making sure COVID-19 does not infect the vulnerable elderly population.

“One of our biggest concerns is keeping it out of there,” she said.

Rezac said she and her team have regular meetings with health officials including Three Rivers Public Health Department, the Omaha Metro Incident Command and Bryan Health to coordinate SMC’s COVID-19 response.

The board also heard that SMC ranked in the 95th percentile nationwide in employee engagement, an accomplishment that brought great pride to the managers and administrative staff. Rezac said the ranking was achieved through improved communication.

“We’re getting to know each individual and what makes them happy,” she said.

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