Welcome to this, our 7th letter. Marty Massiello, our Executive Vice President and COO, is writing with us. By way of introduction, Marty has 25 years of experience running major medical centers (in Chicago and here at Eisenhower), has a Master’s degree in Medical Ethics, is a pharmacist by trade, Jesuit brother in spirit, and attorney for good measure. Marty leads our hospital’s clinical team, and our clinical response to COVID-19.
All three of us believe our volume of COVID-19 patients has stabilized. Our hospital units are caring for fewer “positive” patients than last Monday, and the Monday before. Currently, there are 15 positive COVID-19 inpatients. This is encouraging: if something is going to change, it should change this week, but we see a definite leveling. Since this is so positive, we won’t go into the same detail we did last week, except to report that of 1,014 tested, 130 (12.8%) have been positive, and 895 (88%) are negative.
Testing is so critical in “managing” this outbreak. Last week, Eisenhower began testing from our own laboratory. However, don’t rush to your doctor for testing. We have a supply problem: we don’t have enough swabs and reagent test kits to increase our testing volumes. So, we will continue to limit our tests to those who have symptoms and to Eisenhower employees, doctors and nurses who need to be tested to keep you safe. For those who don’t have symptoms and are still healthy, yet are worried, we look forward to getting you tested in the future. Stay tuned for more information about this: it may be the swab test or the newer antigen or antibody tests.
Let’s turn our attention to the overall health system. We know you are getting the best care possible. But, we do worry about our doctors, nurses and employees and ensuring they are safe and supported, in all ways. Our strategy, clinically, and business-wise, is to prepare for the worst and hope for the best. We do not think we are going to have the experiences of the larger urban areas, because we have learned from the lessons they have shared.
But, we are fighting a pandemic, and simultaneously, a financial crisis. The government’s stimulus bill will help some of our short-term revenue shortfall. However, like all hospitals, we have had to cancel all elective surgeries, and many people are just avoiding coming to the hospital for any procedure. Eisenhower’s health care system is going to come back to life soon. We need to start caring for you, for your good, as well as ours. We don’t understand how, but people are holding off cardiology procedures and emergency visits. We know, because both are down by over 50%. Please take care of yourself and don’t ignore symptoms of a heart attack or stroke and if you develop difficulty breathing, seek care immediately.
Currently, we are experiencing something akin to the slowness of Summer, while still in Spring. As we enter the summer months of June-August, we may experience something more like the Fall, when patients return to Eisenhower for their procedures. Eisenhower will not be immune from losses. Our projections are that March through June financials are going to have a $100M shortfall in revenue, compared to budget. Thankfully, the federal stimulus grant monies will offset a portion of these losses. Yet, as a hospital, we remain open 24/7, and have to maintain staffing levels in preparation for a possible outbreak of ill patients. Your financial support has helped us tremendously! The best we can say: we are evaluating the economic cost of the virus as we enter a week of calmer waters.
In his Friday email to our 4,000 Eisenhower employees, Marty wrote: “Donations to Eisenhower have been incredible. From donations of PPE to sewn masks to food for staff to financial donations, we should truly consider ourselves fortunate to have such support. Our COVID-19 support fund has already received more than $60,000 just from online donations, plus hundreds of thousands of dollars from our longstanding donors, near and far, who want to be sure our employees have what they need to care for our community. When people ask you how they can help, please let them know about this fund, which they can find on our website – www.eisenhowerhealth.org/covidfund. Help of any dollar amount makes a difference because we truly are stronger together.”
Eisenhower is unique in America. We are an independent Health System that has been built, with excellence, by philanthropy. Our greatest need is to be here for you, with that same excellence, when you need us most. We consider you our “extended family” and we are here to protect you as this virus runs its course though the valley.
We thank you for being there for us. And we promise to be here for you. Stay healthy and let’s stay in close touch (but 6 feet away!).