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We need our hospitals.
Right now, they are all busy with other things. Emergency departments are taking care of the victims of the coronavirus pandemic. Health care workers are testing to identify those with covid-19 symptoms. Intensive care units are struggling with the task of trying to save lives — and the stress of seeing so many lost.
The pandemic seems like it will never end.
But it will. And when it does, we will still need our hospitals.
The American Hospital Directory lists 176 individual facilities in Pennsylvania. They range from arms of the largest octopus in the tank — UPMC dwarfs all other systems in the state — to more modest regional groups like Excela to tiny standalone hospitals that have just 20 beds or less.
They represent about 1.5 million patients spending more than 6 million days per year recovering from illness or injury, having babies or having surgery. They also represent a $208 billion economic engine for the state.
We need them on so many levels. We need their help when we are hurt. We need their partnership in keeping us well. We need them to be there in an emergency. And we need the paychecks that they generate and the business that they do.
The pandemic threatens that, not only by overwhelming some areas but cutting out others.
“Our hospitals have risen to Gov. Tom Wolf’s call to suspend non-emergent services and prepare for a surge of covid-19 patients in Pennsylvania; however, doing so has placed unprecedented stress on their finances,” said Andy Carter, president of the Hospital and Healthsystem Association of Pennsylvania, in a statement Wednesday.
Hospitals, especially the smaller systems and individual facilities, balance on a tightrope that is stabilized by care they can’t provide right now.
That makes the $450 million in loans promised by Wolf and the $117 billion assistance included in the federal $2 trillion bill lifesaving for more than the hospitals that will receive them.
They will save the lives of heart attack patients and accident victims and premature babies who will need those hospitals next week and next month and next year.
“Hospitals across Pennsylvania should be focused on saving lives, not worrying about how to make ends meet until federal relief funds arrive months from now,” said state Treasurer Joe Torsella.
And Pennsylvanians need the reassurance that the last casualty of the coronavirus won’t be the hospitals they depend upon.