INDIANA REGIONAL MEDICAL CENTER  IRMC  sign

Indiana Regional Medical Center is coping with financial hardship during the ongoing pandemic.

“Our revenues are off dramatically,” IRMC CEO Steve Wolfe told The Indiana Gazette in an interview this week.

IRMC is seeking to care for both those needing aid with COVID-19 and those still needing other hospital services allowed during the pandemic.

“We’ve canceled elective surgery,” Wolfe said. Still, “we are fortunate compared to some.”

The IRMC emergency room still takes in 80 to 100 patients each day, but for many there is an option that can be exercised instead of driving to the White Township hospital.

“Telemedicine has really taken off here,” Wolfe said.

As noted on IRMC’s website, many of the hospital’s local providers, including personal care physicians and specialists, offer telemedicine visits in place of face-to-face visits.

“We encourage you to stay home, except in emergency situations or if your symptoms are worsening,” the hospital advised its patients.

It is a rough time for hospitals, as illustrated by a national pulse survey conducted March 23-27 by the Office of Inspector General in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

“Hospitals described increasing costs and decreasing revenues as a threat to their financial viability,” the inspector general’s office reported. “Hospitals reported that ceasing elective procedures and other services decreased revenues at the same time that their costs have increased as they prepare for a potential surge of patients.”

And things could get worse before they get better.

“This is a real critical moment,” Wolfe said. “The next several weeks are critical. A lot will be riding over these next several weeks.”

The federal stimulus or economic impact support included in recent legislation did not help much.

“It was disappointing,” Wolfe said. “While it is flowing, it doesn’t appear it is going to be enough.”

There was $100 billion included to reimburse providers for COVID-19-related expenses and lost revenue, an amount sought by such entities as the American Nurses Association and American Medical Association.

The Federation of American Hospitals asked for $225 billion.

And the American Hospital Association said it supported what overall was a $2.2 trillion package, but said more would have to be done in subsequent legislation.

“Hospitals certainly weren’t at the top of the list,” Wolfe said.

On the federal level, Wolfe said U.S. Rep. Glenn Thompson, R-Howard Township, was “very responsive,” while on the state level he lauded the help of Rep. Jim Struzzi and Sen. Joe Pittman, both R-Indiana.

On Wednesday, Gov. Tom Wolf signed an order aimed at supporting the commonwealth’s health care system.

The order mandates that private, public and quasi-public health care providers and facilities, as well as manufacturers, distributors and suppliers of PPE (personal protective equipment), pharmaceuticals and other medical resources located within the commonwealth, submit current inventory quantities of PPE, pharmaceuticals and other medical resources to (Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency) within five days of Wednesday’s order.

Furthermore, health care providers and facilities are ordered to provide written reports detailing facility health care needs and other pertinent information in the form, manner and frequency directed by PEMA.

“I commend Pennsylvania’s medical facilities for their efforts so far in helping to shift resources toward the fight against COVID-19,” the governor said. “Many are already working together to shift resources among facilities, both public and private, and many of our medical facilities have shifted resources internally.”

Amid everything else, IRMC has a support mechanism in the Indiana Healthcare Foundation.

As posted on IRMC’s website, the foundation’s mission is to advance the spirit of philanthropy through training, education and advocacy, as it ensures that needed resources are vigorously and ethically sought for the 106-year-old hospital.

“As our community hospital stands ready, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, to be on the front line protecting and caring for our friends and neighbors during this pandemic, we are forever grateful to serve in such a generous community,” foundation Executive Director Heather Reed recently wrote.