Coronavirus puts Yale New Haven Health in deep hole for year

The front entrance of Yale New Haven Hospital in New Haven in 2020.

NEW HAVEN — The COVID-19 pandemic will bring the Yale New Haven Health System its first operating loss, one that could reach $100 million, CEO Marna Borgstrom said Thursday.

Borgstrom said the network of five hospitals and the Northeast Medical Group would see an “unprecedented” operating loss “probably in excess of $450 million.” That has been offset, however, with about $320 million in CARES Act money, a federal COVID assistance program administered by the state.

She said the loss estimates are “a work in progress” with the fiscal year ending Sept. 30 and she estimated the net loss as “probably between $70 [million] and $100 million.”

She said the loss has to be measured against the hospital’s annual budgeting for an operating gain, “so that we can be creditworthy” in order to finance large projects such as the Neuroscience Center at the St. Raphael campus of Yale New Haven Hospital and the Smilow Cancer Hospital Care Center in Greenwich.

Borgstrom made her comments during an online news conference.

In a follow-up email, YNHH spokesman Vincent Petrini said revenues are the most fluid and “losses are based upon current volume assumptions. If volume comes back stronger, our gap becomes smaller, but the deficit will still be very significant,” he said. Final numbers won’t be available until mid-November, he said.

Yale New Haven Health was created in 1996 with an affiliation between Yale New Haven Hospital and Bridgeport Hospital, Petrini said. Greenwich Hospital was added in 1998, Lawrence and Memorial in New London and Westerly (R.I.) Hospital in 2016, he said.

“The trends that have led us to where we are right now are ones we continue to see,” Borgstrom said.

“Our inpatient volumes in general across the system have come back. Bridgeport, Yale New Haven, Greenwich are all very busy inpatient areas,” she said. “The emergency rooms are back to being overwhelmed at certain times of the week and certain times of the day with patients.”

She said “outpatient volume has been softer,” partly because of more use of telehealth visits. “But I think some of it reflects people’s lack of comfort with coming in for care that they don’t feel is absolutely necessary,” she said.

She said people should not delay coming to the hospital if needed. “We as organizations have been working inpatient and outpatient to create as safe an environment as possible.”

“What we’ve got to do is continue to do our best to protect our patients and our staff and make sure we are providing a safe environment for everybody,” Borgstrom said, adding that other health systems are in the same position.

“We are going into our next fiscal year with great optimism but also prepared that we may have another wave of COVID,” she said. “We don’t know what the flu season is going to bring to us, so there are a lot of unknowns, but that’s the nature of the work that we do and we will be prepared.”

On a positive note, Borgstrom said the number of COVID-positive patients in the health system stood at 18 Thursday, 13 of them in Yale New Haven Hospital, three in Bridgeport Hospital and two in Greenwich Hospital. She compared that with the 800 patients on April 21, which was “a very uncertain and difficult time for all of us.”

Dr. Thomas Balcezak, chief clinical officer for the health system, said even with the opening of colleges and schools, “We still are seeing the same age population admitted to our institutions, but it may be a skewed number.” While older people are being hospitalized, younger people may still test positive for the disease.

He said the health system had give almost 200,000 tests for the coronavirus, and 95 percent of them get results in less than 24 hours. People can sign up for testing at covidtesting2.ynhhs.org, he said.

Connecticut Media Group