April 15 Message from Ridgeview President and CEO Mike Phelps
I am writing today to provide some regional context to messaging you may be hearing and reading about hospitals’ and health systems’ preparedness for the COVID-19 pandemic, and the associated financial hardships on the health care industry.
There is no question these are unprecedented times which have health care organizations — including Ridgeview — preparing and investing in additional clinical resources and expanding capacity for an unknown level of volume of patients.
As the safety net for health care in our communities, it is Ridgeview’s role to be there when needed. As Ridgeview’s president & CEO, it is my job to assure we are appropriate stewards of the assets we have to serve you to the best of our ability, when and if you or your loved ones need care.
In early March 2020, Ridgeview tested the second confirmed positive case of COVID-19, aka coronavirus, in Minnesota. We were prepared with safe testing protocols and continued our emergency preparedness planning based on experiences from other countries, states and communities.
Five weeks after that confirmed positive test, our industry in Minnesota is in a state of significant disruption — preparing for a surge of acutely ill patients and investing in alternative models aimed at meeting the needs of those who will be critically ill or require hospitalization. Across the state — no matter the size of hospital, clinic or health system — we are collaborating and considering all aspects of health care delivery in a truly unparalleled time in our history.
There is no crystal ball as to what the future holds from a sense of viral spread, timing and peak. In this age of 24/7 connectivity, there is plenty of information available at your fingertips which may either be misleading or informative about the timing or potential for a surge in COVID-19 virus spread.
As an example, there are predictive models suggesting a late April surge, a late May or even a June surge. Some experts even suggest COVID-19 may be present in geographic pockets with occasional flare ups until a vaccine is developed. It is likely that none of these models are completely accurate, but they can be informative.
Ridgeview uses all of the information available to us to make decisions for our organization, including conversations at our state hospital association and statewide planning consortiums, and we continue to respond with actions to control COVID-19 via Gov. Tim Walz’ executive orders and Minnesota Department of Health or Centers for Disease Control guidelines.
At this time, Minnesota’s hospitals, clinics and surgery centers have ceased all elective surgeries and procedures due to executive order. We’ve all moved many clinic services to “E-visits” or video visits to preserve Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), to flatten a potential surge or peak of COVID-19 patients, to create more hospital inpatient capacity to serve a COVID-19 influx and to keep our workforce healthy. This cessation creates challenges for Ridgeview, and every Minnesota health system, in that the very revenue sources we use to fund investments for a safety net level of preparedness have been put on hold indefinitely until a clearer picture of the presence and spread of COVID-19 becomes available to those guiding a statewide response.
You have likely read or heard of some significant financial losses mounting for major health systems across the state, due to this conflict between the rising cost of preparedness and a decline in revenue streams. Unfortunately, Ridgeview is not immune to these pressures driving losses at other systems — we have seen more than a 50% decline in revenues in the past month and expect that to continue for a period of time.
This has and will continue to create very difficult times for which there is no playbook, and Ridgeview, too, has and will need to continue to balance fiscal responsibility with keeping our teams “on the bench” awaiting a COVID-19 surge so that we can sustain our services long-term.
As a result, many of our staff are working fewer hours than planned, and compensation for our leadership and support teams has been reduced to respond to the reduction of revenues. This current trend of care constriction is equally concerning clinically, as many in our communities still have chronic disease or mental health needs and we must to find ways to serve these needs … even in times of pandemic.
As your community’s health care provider and one of the region’s largest employers, I assure you that Ridgeview has been prudently saving and preparing for days like these. We will learn and evolve from this unprecedented experience, emerge from this pandemic event and continue to deliver on our mission — to enhance the lifelong health of the people we serve.
In closing, thank you so much to those who are on the front lines preparing for this pandemic and inserting themselves daily into the unknown. Thank you to the many creative individuals and businesses manufacturing PPE for our staff, and to those local businesses who are struggling to stay afloat but still deliver or donate food to our staff.
And finally, thank you for staying home at a time when we Minnesotans are jumping at the chance to be freed from our seasonal hibernation. Because of you, we will get through this together.