LAKE OSWEGO, Ore. — An organization representing Oregon hospitals says that the Delta wave of the pandemic continued to threaten medical providers financially in the second quarter of 2021, according to a performance report gathered by Apprise Health Insights.
The Oregon Association of Hospitals and Health Systems said in a statement that hospital patient visits in every category — inpatient, outpatient, and emergency room — increased over the first quarter of 2021. The second quarter covers data from the beginning of April to the end of June.
"Many patients admitted to the hospital are very sick with COVID and are staying longer, continuing a rise that began with the start of the pandemic (up 11 percent when compared to 2019 levels)," OAHHS said. "While such cases are contributing to revenue increases, any gains are offset by higher care costs for treating patients with more severe conditions."
Net patient revenue fell short of total operating expenses for the fourth quarter in a row, due in large part to these longer hospitals stays. OAHHS also pointed to the cost of labor, which it said has gone up 20 percent over the past three years.
Meanwhile, hospitals continue to report major staffing shortages as some healthcare workers leave their jobs or take time off due to illness, exhaustion, or stress.
"Hospitals report some recent success recruiting replacements but incentives such as higher pay and sign-on bonuses are adding to expenses," OAHHS said.
Analysts from Apprise reported that these trends will likely get worse in the next quarter, since COVID-19 case numbers and hospitalizations broke records throughout the summer. Hospitals reported staffing and bed shortages, thousands of canceled or delayed elective procedures, and limited community placements after hospitalization leading to delayed care.
“The data tell the story of our overwhelmed hospital system, which has been pushed to the breaking point by the recent surge,” said Andy Van Pelt, CEO of Apprise Health Insights. “Adding to the stress of the staffing shortage taking its toll on patient care is the financial pressure from rising labor costs and lower Net Patient Revenue. We believe these trends will continue into the next quarterly reporting period.”
Other metrics, like median operating margins and median total margins — which includes investment income — improved in the second quarter after declining for the two previous quarters. But OAHHS said that it expects further setbacks to hospitals' recovery due to the Delta sruge between July and September, which will be part of the third quarter.
"Furthermore, other operating revenue, including grants and federal CARES Act funds, continues to show up on hospital balance sheets," OAHHS said. "Margin figures could be affected as hospitals finish their reporting requirements and those funds no longer appear."