WVU Medicine operations slowly ramp up, records $75 million loss during elective procedure suspension

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — WVU Medicine President and CEO Albert Wright said Monday the large hospital system lost $75 million during the 45-day suspension of elective procedures because of the coronavirus.

WVU Medicine and other hospitals around the state stopped during elective procedures in mid-March following guidance from the Centers for Disease Control to prepare for a possible surge in coronavirus patients. Gov. Jim Justice followed that move with an executive order. Hospitals were allowed to restart elective procedures last week.

During an appearance Monday on MetroNews “Talkline,” Wright said preparing for the surge was the right move but it was costly.

“We would have seen about 27,000 ER visits in April and we saw about 15,000. We would have performed about 8,500 surgeries and we performed about 3,000 and we admitted 5,500 patients where we normally do about 9,000 patients,” Wright said. “We’re still running about 70 to 74 percent occupancy.”

Wright said the system will deal with the $75 million loss with $45 million in CARES Act money, advances on Medicare payments and a $125 million line of credit that has not been accessed.

Meanwhile, Wright said operations across the WVU Medicine system are slowly returning to normal levels.

“We’re probably 60 to 70 percent of surgical capacity and probably the same for ambulatory outpatient visits,” Wright said. “So, we’re phasing it up over a two to three-week period with the hopes by the middle of the month we’ll be back to normal operations.”

Wright said when the suspension was announced they immediately instituted a salary guarantee for some medical workers knowing the clinical volume would decline.

“Over this past 45-days, we’ve paid out about 135,000 hours of that low-census pay, about 4,000 of our associates were able to take advantage of that,” Wright said.

Although operations are expected to return to normal levels by mid-May, Wright said it could up to months away for operations to completely return to normal.

“Every in-patient you have, they’ll typically have between five to six visitors,” he said. “If we start allowing that many people into the hospital that’s when we increase the likelihood of that second surge, which we want to avoid.”

Wright doesn’t expect the ban on visitors at WVU Medicine facilities to be lifted until July. Limited exceptions are made for end-of-life cases, pediatrics, and women giving birth. In those cases, patients are allowed one visitor.

WVU Medicine is the largest private employer in the state. It’s made up of nearly 11 hospitals and performs management services for a half-dozen other facilities.