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September 1, 2020

Hospital rebounds, but revenue still lagging

File Photo/Lawrence Emerson
Hospital employees greet well-wishers during a “Light the Night” parade to thank them in late April.
It’s just not going away . . . . We’re basically looking at another year.
— Fauquier Health CEO Chad Melton
By .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
Editor
Fauquier Hospital has bounced back from the COVID-19 pandemic’s worst effects.

In April, the 67-year-old hospital lost almost $1 million and furloughed 20 percent of its 990 employees as the governor ordered a halt to elective procedures, CEO Chad Melton said in an interview last week.

The hospital by July 17 “brought everybody back . . . (and) opened up all product lines,” including outpatient services that account for much of its profit, Mr. Melton said.

Still, revenue year-to-date remains about 18 percent less than a year ago and the hospital continues to “flex” its staff, with about 3 percent on leave at any given time , depending on demand for services.

The pandemic had devastating effects on the entire healthcare industry and hospitals across the nation, with revenue losses in the hundreds of billions of dollars. The federal government responded with some financial support.

“There were two tranches of money from CARES, but it was no where near what we normally would generate,” said Mr. Melton, who put the federal support at 20 to 22 percent of the lost revenue.

Basically, the Warrenton hospital — owned by Tennessee-based LifePoint Health since November 2013 — has returned to break-even operations.

In the last five years, the hospital has averaged a $21-million annual profit. That has supported significant investments, such as the new cancer center, catheterization lab and robotic surgery equipment, according to the CEO.

It remains uncertain how the rest of 2020 will unfold, Mr. Melton said.

“Our surgery volume in July was close to last year, and our imaging volume was close,” but some patients remain reluctant to visit healthcare providers because of concerns about the virus.

Other than several dozen infected patients, Fauquier Hospital and its staff have remained virtually free of the virus.

Earlier, the hospital’s 10-bed intensive care unit peaked at seven patients with COVID-19, Mr. Melton said. During the interview last Thursday, the ICU had one patient with the virus.

Improved testing access has helped manage the pandemic here. The hospital also has streamlined its screening of everyone who enters. A camera that scans everyone and records body temperature has replaced the need for a manual process. The hospital also lifted its prohibition on visitors.

Telemedicine — via video —has helped the hospital and other providers continue to serve patients without physical contact. Government payers and insurance companies in response to the pandemic changed their reimbursement policies to cover telemedicine, which Mr. Melton said will remain a permanent part of healthcare going forward.

But, mental health services remain sparse, even as demand soars, because reimbursement hasn’t changed enough to encourage more professionals to enter the field, he said.

Fauquier Health plans to promote the Mental Health Association of Fauquier County’s services but the community has few clinicians in the specialty.

The hospital recently added a second neurologist to its staff of 21 in-house physicians. Recruitment of specialists continues, with a focus on candidates who will complete their residencies in 2021, Mr. Melton said.

He suggested that state and federal agencies have learned lessons about better preparedness for pandemics, including the stockpiling of supplies and the importance of testing.

Fauquier Health had enough PPE (personal protection equipment) to get through the worst of the pandemic but has focused on building its stockpile, the CEO said.

Still, the future remains uncertain.

Of the virus, Mr. Melton said: “It’s just not going away . . . . We’re basically looking at another year . . . .

“Our biggest concern is the flu season” with the pandemic continuing.

In a typical year, about 60 percent of the population gets the flu vaccine.

“People this year are gonna be more likely to take the vaccine,” Mr. Melton predicted. “What does that do to this hospital?”

Meanwhile, the hospital continues to operate its emergency “command center,” open since the pandemic started.

“People need to take it seriously,” the hospital CEO said of the virus. “A certain segment doesn’t think it’s real.”

Contact Editor “Lou” Emerson at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) or 540-270-1845.
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kitirish · September 10, 2020 at 3:32 am
A camera that scans everyone and records body temperature has replaced the need for a manual process (https://pngtoico.io). The hospital also lifted its prohibition on visitors.
mcm37 · September 3, 2020 at 1:17 pm
Hospitals should never be for-profit. The money they make should all go into doctor and nurse salaries, facility improvements, and better patient care, not siphoned off by shareholders.
AngryBob · September 3, 2020 at 9:28 am
Shirley: That's $0.41 for the gum, and $14.59 for the malpractice insurance.
PabloCruz · September 2, 2020 at 7:51 pm
Fauqier Hospital is owned by LifePoint Health. Chad Melton is an employee of Lifepoint Health. LifePoint Health is owned by Apollo Global Management, an investment management firm. Apollo's principal and one of its founders is Leon Black. According to Wikipedia, Leon Black was "junk bond king" Michael Milken's right-hand man when they worked together at now-defunct Drexel Burnham Lambert, another investment firm. Michael Milken was convicted of felony securities fraud, and went to prison. Donald Trump pardoned Mr. Milken on Feb. 18, 2020.
If you dig just a little, you will find that private equity firms and like entities are buying up everything, from the grocery store that you shop at (Safeway is owned by Cerberus Capital), to the hospital you depend on for health care. Everything and everyone is, or has become a commodity. Look at the language Mr. Melton uses.

The hospital by July 17 “brought everybody back . . . (and) opened up all product lines,”

In the brave new world of massive consolidation by billion dollar global asset firms, blind to their local community connections and responsibilities, health care has become just another portfolio of "product lines"
When the hospital (store) and its products become unprofitable, it can be closed just like any other business. It happens all over the country, especially in rural areas.
Shirley Hanes · September 2, 2020 at 6:09 pm
Trump's EO 13813 required hospitals to provide lists of their costs to the public. Fauquier Health's can be found on a link from this page under "list of charges":

https://www.fauquierhealth.org/patients-visitors/understanding-billing-and-charges

Lots of real fun stuff in there. I'll draw your attention to just one example: Nicorette Gum 2mg, $15.

Take a drive down Broadview to Walgreens and they'll set you up with a one hundred pack of 2mg Nicorette gum for $40.99, which is $0.41 a piece. If Fauquier Health is paying retail for nicotine gum (which they're not), that means they've got a markup of over 3500%.

If you're not for out right joining the rest of the civilized world with dignifying our citizenry with socialized healthcare, at least write to your representatives about putting legal regulations in place to stop these for-profit health outfits gouging us.
Bonnie C. · September 2, 2020 at 2:53 pm
The hospital is whining because it's not making enough money? Doesn't have enough cases - elective or otherwise? How very, VERy sad that they're hoping more people will become ill or require hospitalization.
Becca · September 1, 2020 at 8:45 pm
The U.S. is the most powerful country in the world, with 4% of the world's population, yet 22% of global COVID deaths, & rising.

Why? One major reason - aside from appalling lack of leadership from the White House - is profit-centered care. Health is a human right. We'll never beat the virus if people cannot afford to get tested/treated.
AngryBob · September 1, 2020 at 2:38 pm
Lost revenue? Furloughs? I'm confused. I thought hospitals were overrun with Wuflu patients and stacking corpses in the parking lot like cordwood.
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