Our view: Health care: You need it, it needs you

Herald pull quote, 5/7/2020

Revenue at North Dakota hospitals has fallen by an estimated 50% since the coronavirus pandemic hit. The Minnesota Hospital Association estimates its members will lose $2.9 billion by midsummer.

Those numbers were reported by the Herald Saturday in a piece headlined “Next big concern for hospitals: Bottom line.”

It’s a cruel twist of irony: When we need our hospitals and clinics the most, those places are struggling more than ever. They have turned their focus toward treating, or preventing, an outbreak in their communities, and general procedures and visits have been pushed aside. Those are a hospital’s greatest revenue sources.

The proverbial bleeding continues.

The American Hospital Association, for instance, estimates U.S. hospitals are losing upwards of $50 billion per month.


Wednesday, the Herald published a letter from Dr. Steven Weiser, president of Altru Health System. Weiser assured readers the hospital is safe and that staff there are working to expand services beyond coronavirus care.

“Across the country, patients are postponing care,” he wrote. “They are ignoring signs and symptoms. They are avoiding the ER. This has led to advancing disease and more emergent care needed for patients. We do not want this for our community. … We now have several measures in place that allow us to expand our services.”

Among them: Separated “well” and “sick” clinics, better screening and expanded virtual care. Also, Altru has implemented a quarantine and screening process for scheduled surgeries.

Weiser says it’s safe to reach out to the hospital for necessary visits that may have been put off. That includes regular clinic appointments, surgeries and emergency care.

Continuing to delay certain procedures – such as screenings – isn’t a wise health decision. And those decisions certainly aren’t helping Altru’s bottom line.

This isn’t a local issue, as hospitals nationwide are putting focus back toward surgeries and procedures.

The website Modern Healthcare reported hospitals in Michigan are moving back toward normalcy for non-coronavirus procedures. The report quoted Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, who said “we are encouraging anyone who has been holding off on surgery that really needs to be done to get that scheduled and to proceed.”

Weiser, in his letter, said Altru has enhanced its testing capabilities, and also that staff, patients and visitors are screened before entering the system’s facilities.


With these precautions in mind, Weiser is urging the region’s residents to consider their health care needs. Altru was always open, but had adopted limits during the early stages of the pandemic; now, the hospital is ready to expand its ability to see all patients.

“Schedule your annual exam. See your primary provider. … Refill your prescriptions. Get your necessary lab work. Don’t ignore the symptoms of a stroke or heart attack,” he said. “We’ll work with you to deliver the care you need in a manner you are most comfortable.”

Doing so is a win-win. It’s obviously good for the patient, whose health could suffer by delaying procedures. And it’s good for local hospitals – not just Altru, but also care centers throughout the region – as they try to return to a place of financial stability.

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