Sep 06, 2020 10:01 PM

Nebraska hospitals want money to recover from pandemic

Posted Sep 06, 2020 10:01 PM

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) - Nebraska hospitals are asking for more federal aid to help recover from the financial toll the coronavirus pandemic has taken.

Nebraska Hospital Association officials say the pandemic has meant increased costs and a decline in revenue for hospitals, the Omaha World-Herald reported.

The revenue drop is partly because Nebraska temporarily banned elective procedures to save hospital resources when the virus first hit the state. Some patients also avoided hospitals out of fear of catching COVID-19 there.

Increased costs for hospitals included protective gear, COVID-19 testing sites, and medical equipment and medicine to treat the virus.

Outpatient surgeries dropped by 70% in April compared to the same time last year, according to data from 80% of the Nebraska Hospital Association's members. Emergency room visits declined by 44% in April.

Numbers rebounded by June but were still lower than the year before, the newspaper reported.

Nebraska hospitals have already received some federal aid. But the hospital association's vice president for advocacy, Andy Hale, said it's not enough.

A University of Nebraska Medical Center study found that 53% of Nebraska hospitals were distressed before the pandemic even hit.

"Hospitals are still recovering as much as everyone else . due to this pandemic," Hale said.

Statewide, new coronavirus cases for the seven-day period that ended Sunday totaled 2,052, an average of 293 a day, according to an Associated Press analysis of data from Johns Hopkins University's COVID-19 tracking project.

Cases are spiking in Lancaster County, home of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Local officials attributed the uptick to university students' return to school, the newspaper reported.

The positive test rate in the county increased from 6.8% in the week of Aug. 22 to about 13.4% the first week of September.

Lincoln Mayor Leirion Gaylor Baird said she's also concerned about a potential uptick in cases caused by partying over Labor Day weekend. Lancaster County cases spiked after July Fourth, she said.

"In short, we are concerned this holiday weekend could lead to a similar spike in cases (like) what we saw over the Fourth of July weekend," she said.