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As the coronoavirus keeps Americans sheltered in place in their homes for at least the rest of this month, the economic destruction mounts for many businesses and industries, including the health care sector.
Kansans have responsibly approached calls to flatten the curve and we’ve benefited from an early adoption of precautions to avoid broad transmission of the virus. These measures, however, have meant the cancellation of elective and routine medical procedures, causing providers to lose significant amounts of revenue.
It’s why Hutchinson Regional Medical Center announced this week it was furloughing staff and Stormont Vail in Topeka initiated system-wide pay cuts. Recognizing the strains felt by Kansas hospitals, the State Finance Council took action last week to allocate $17.3 million in grants for struggling hospitals through use of federal dollars allocated in relief funding passed in March.
More is undoubtedly necessary and with passage of the latest relief bill, should be on the way.
It’s important to note that it’s not just hospitals that need additional support. Physician clinics are also feeling the strain. Lawrence family physician Chad Johanning was quoted in a Kansas City Star story saying that “even with tele-health visits, I’ve seen a 50 percent drop in visits during this and I have heard of other clinicians who are closer to 80 percent drops.”
It’s a big issue and one we can’t ignore.
"The economic pressures on physicians, especially small practices, are so severe right now that their survivability is in question," said Bob Doherty, an executive at the American College of Physicians. "Unless the financial situation improves, within the next several months, many are going to have to shutter or sell out."
We need our doctors and we need them in all corners of the state, border to border. The disbursement of aid for health care workers should extend not only to our hospitals but also our physician clinics. Whether working in our hospitals or in the community clinic, our doctors are leading the teams of nurses, respiratory therapists, and other clinicians on the front lines of health care services.
We commend our federal and state policymakers for the commitments they’ve made to allocate resources to health care providers across the state so our health care community can do its work today and when the pandemic is over.
As we come out of this, and we will, it’s likely we’ll need to do more, particularly in underserved areas. Lending financial aid and support to our health care system is the best way to stand in support with our doctors.
In the meantime, we appreciate the resources that have been made available thus far and thank the men and women providing care across the state in our health clinics.
Whether its maintenance of a facility, janitorial services, food preparation, or direct patient care, Kansas has many brave men and women working in health care. Thank you. We stand with you and promise to continue our advocacy on your behalf. You’ve earned it.