There was a lot of public interest at Curry Health’s virtual board meeting on Friday,
April 3 rd , 2020. Many participated in the remote meeting wanting to know why Curry
Health has fired or furloughed doctors, nurses and other healthcare workers. And
they found out the Curry Health Network is in a tough situation. It’s trying to find and
save money, while at the same time making plans for what could be a surge in Covid
19 patients. Nearly 200 Curry Health employees have been affected. Curry Health
CEO Ginny Williams says some have been terminated, others reassigned and many
doctors and nurses have been changed from full time to per diem employees.
Willliams says that makes them eligible for unemployment benefits, and that the
moves will save the Curry Health Network about $1.3 million per month.
Something you should know, Curry Health is just one of many hospitals in the same
kind of financial difficulty. That’s because hospital income has been cut across the
board, the result of several factors relating to the Covid 19 pandemic. Elective and
non-essential surgeries and procedures have been put on hold, and people aren’t
using hospital departments like Radiology, Physical Therapy, and surprisingly, the
Emergency Department. At Curry Health, E.R. visits alone are down 65-70%.
But Curry Health also carries a large debt, partly due it its construction of the new
hospital and the opening of the Brookings stand-alone Emergency Department. That
means Curry Health is ahead of the curve when it comes to financial woes, and that
has Curry Health CEO Ginny Williams scrambling for money. She says she’s working
with hospital vendors, and has asked for a three-month extension on bills. She’s also
asked for loan forgiveness from the USDA. Curry Health is also looking for grants,
and for loans that become grants, and is asking Medicare for an advance based on
its past billing. Right now, its monthly “nut” is about $4 million, and Williams says that
in order to remain open, Curry Health needs to find another $1.3 million every month
until the crisis ends.
We asked Williams about rumors that Curry health was looking for a loan from the
Curry County Road Fund, but she says she has no plans to touch Road Fund dollars,
and has not spoken to Curry County Commissioners about the possibility. The reality
is this, right now Curry Health is playing a waiting game by trying to keep its doors
open … while preparing for the expected surge of patients to show up over the next
few weeks. Curry Health CEO Ginny Williams says she hopes that by paying doctors
and nurses on a per diem basis, they will be available to help when, or if, Covid 19
shows up in Curry County.
You should know Curry General is putting color coded D Covid 19 protocol in place
right now. Patients are literally separated at the hospital’s door. If you have no fever
or cough, you’re sent to a blue area, but those who do have fever or cough are sent
to a yellow area. As of April 4, 2020, Curry Health has tested 64 people for Covid 19.
44 results have been returned negative, 20 results are pending. KCIW understands
there have been some private practice MDs who have tested patients, but so far, no
positive tests have been found in Curry County.
The latest projections say the first week in May is when things will peak, meaning
that’s when the most people will be sick at the same time. That’s when hospitals,
including Curry General, will likely be inundated. We do know that social distancing
is helping to flatten the curve. The latest projections of the COVID-19 pandemic in
Oregon show that if people can maintain current social distancing measures for at
least another month, there will be enough hospital beds for patients here in Oregon.
The latest projections, prepared by the Institute for Disease Modeling, show if people
continue to follow current social distancing measures into early May, coronavirus
transmission rates could be cut between 50%-70% and … the Oregon Health
Authority says there is “strong evidence that measures currently in place in Oregon
are reducing transmission.”
So, how many patients can Curry General handle? We’re told Curry General has 18
hospital beds, and could double them up to handle 2 patients per room … and that
there is also the possibility of adding another 11 beds on other floors for a total of 47
patient beds. Curry Health has 6 ventilators available for patient use.