Justice assures financial support for hospitals during surge of covid patients

As hospitals across West Virginia are filling with covid patients to the point that they curtail elective procedures, Gov. Jim Justice said they can count on financial help from the government.

Justice said an initiative he called “Save Our Care” will assure medical providers that they can shift healthcare resources to covid patients and critical care with less worry about the financial bottom line. The safety net also applies to nursing homes.

“Financially, if they eliminate elective surgeries, whether they be the same day surgery or an overnight surgery, they are really going to destroy the economics of the hospital. We have got to step in, and we’re doing that exactly right now,” Justice said during a briefing today.

Justice’s remarks followed a “Breakfast Roundtable Summit” this morning with health and operations advisers.

In his briefing, Justice said the financial assurance is meant to help hospitals manage staffing and beds.

“The bottom line to the whole thing is our hospitals are on the verge of being overrun,” he said today. “By overrun, I mean we could awaken to a situation where we’re basically rationing care. We’re not there right at this moment. But we should all realize that we are now at a point in time where we’re at a crisis.”

Asked by Dominion-Post reporter David Beard how the funding assurance would prevent healthcare rationing, Justice said it just will. 

“We’re going to make every effort in the world that we’re not at rationing care,” the governor said. “That’s what this is all about. We are absolutely — that’s why we have met over and over and over. That’s why we have moved today. Because God forbid, we don’t want to get in that situation where we’re rationing care.

“But from the standpoint of a hospital that could absolutely get overrun and not be in any other position because of the economics of the hospital or staffing or whatever — things that maybe we can assist and help with — we want to be able to do that.”

Jim Kaufman

The West Virginia Hospital Association praised Justice for the initiative.

“This decision will help our hospitals manage the financial challenges of responding to the pandemic, including the escalating expenses and critical staffing needs they are currently experiencing,” stated Jim Kaufman, president and chief executive of the hospital association.

“Ultimately, funding will help support our health care workers who have been on the frontlines of care for more than 19-months and help maintain the long-term stability of our health care system to care for all patients.”

Hospitalizations have climbed sharply in recent weeks as the delta variant fueled thousands of new active covid cases.

West Virginia reported 955 hospitalizations today from covid-19. On July 3, the state reported just 57 hospitalizations.

The state reported 292 covid patients needing the intensive care unit today, an all-pandemic high.

And the state reported 164 patients needing a ventilator to breathe.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services shows that 82 percent of the available hospital beds in West Virginia are in use. And 86 percent of staffed ICU beds are in use.

Hospitals across the state have reported being inundated with patients during the current surge fueled by the delta variant.

Last week, WVU Medicine posted that nine of its locations are operating at a crisis-level standard of care. “Our ICUs are all full; and our providers are working around the clock to care for their patients.”

Justice indicated “Save Our Care” is meant to provide financial assurance so hospitals may shift resources away from the elective procedures that often shore up the bottom line. Many state healthcare facilities have already curtailed elective procedures.

“We’re moving to assure the safety of institutions that do incredible work,” he said. “We have a real staffing issue. That’s all there is to it.”

Assisted living facilities would also be eligible for financial relief under the initiative. The West Virginia Health Care Association also thanked the governor.

Marty Wright

“The current surge of covid-19 has stretched the staffing and bed availability in our state to the breaking point. Our health care workers have truly been fighting a war against covid-19 for the last 19 months. This latest surge has placed an unprecedented stress on our frontline workers, yet they still strive to provide quality care to all ailing West Virginians,” said Marty Wright, president and chief executive of the association.

“It is imperative that we provide our brave workers some relief and reinforcements, thereby allowing our health care systems to meet the extreme demand that is being placed on them.”

Justice said the money would flow from the federal relief dollars that have come to the state in recent months.

Dr. Clay Marsh

Asked to elaborate on how that would work, covid-19 policy adviser Clay Marsh said “We will work closely with the hospital association and the hospitals and direct what kind of expenses can be reimbursed.

“We talked about issues like staffing, loss of revenue or other expenses — and those will be submitted through the DHHR or through the Governor’s Office for funding. But we will have a more complete overview of that in the upcoming weeks.”

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