Health Care

Pandemic, cyberattack contribute to $21.3 million loss for hospital network

March 11 will mark one year since the first patient diagnosed with COVID-19 received care from the UVM Health Network. Combined with the cyberattack and the suspension of surgery at Fanny Allen, it’s been a tough financial year for Vermont’s largest health care provider and employer. 

“We continue to address financial challenges resulting from the pandemic, with a $21.3 million loss to date in the current fiscal year, which began on October 1, 2020,” the hospital network and Vermont’s largest employer said in a March 8 statement.

Despite relief payments, including $39.1 million from state and federal CARES Act funding, UVM Health Network missed its budget target by more than $28 million at the end of the January reporting period, four months into our current fiscal year. Over the same time period, margin targets – the funds left over after expenses which we use to invest in the sustainability and improvement of our operations – were not met, as a result of the Network’s financial performance. 

Achieving margin goals is critical to a health care organization’s mission to respond to the needs of its patients and communities, UVMHN said. Additional federal funding is anticipated after this reporting period, and is expected to stem some of our losses.

“Across our country, health systems are seeing patients delaying care, mostly out of fear of COVID-19,” CEO Dr. John Brumsted said. “Our region is not immune to that trend, and it has had the added negative effect of significantly impacting our finances. One-time events like the cyberattack and suspension of outpatient surgical procedures at the Fanny Allen campus at UVM Medical Center also had an impact.”

“The strong financial support we’ve received from federal and state leaders is helping us weather this storm,” he said. 

This marks the second fiscal year that financial challenges, compounded by the pandemic, have impacted the network’s operating margin. Despite proactive cost-saving measures totaling more than $52 million and significant payments from state and federal CARES Act funding, the Network ended the last fiscal year in 2020 with a $16.3 million operating loss.

In an effort to create long-term sustainability and improve financial performance in the current fiscal year, network affiliates are actively working on plans to address their specific financial challenges. 

Declining patient visits to health care providers during the pandemic is a trend currently taking place across the United States. Based upon data from a February 2021 National Hospital Flash Report by Kaufman Hall, Emergency Department visits are down nationally by 25 percent, and hospital discharges are down 18 percent. At various points throughout the pandemic, patient visits in some areas of the UVM Health Network have been down by up to 25 percent. This national pattern could have far reaching public health impacts. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, delaying or avoiding medical care may increase morbidity and mortality for patients who suffer from both chronic and acute health conditions.

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