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Univ. of Iowa Hospitals facing potential pandemic-related losses of $100 million

The exterior of the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics in Iowa City in an undated file photo. (KCRG File)
The exterior of the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics in Iowa City in an undated file photo. (KCRG File)(KCRG)
Published: May. 20, 2020 at 6:40 PM CDT
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The University of Iowa Hospital and Clinics will have to find new ways to save costs in the coming months, with ripple effects to both staff and patients possible if they cannot.

Administrators said UIHC has lost tens of millions of dollars since the start of the pandemic. Before that, the health care organization was on pace to have its most positive year financially.

“We are blessed for that," Suresh Gunasekaran, CEO of UIHC, said. "We were up $80 million, but you take the $100 million loss it will come out to some sort of loss. We’re not sure what yet."

The number of patients decreased considerably at the start of the pandemic after the state barred non-essential procedures for weeks. While those are allowed again, UIHC still has not made up all that missed revenue.

“If nothing improves that will be the general range: we will lose $20 to $30 million dollars per month,” Gunasekaran said.

Administrators have to find ways to save money. Gunasekaran said pay cuts are possible. However, he promised layoffs would be only used as a last resort.

“We know just a few months ago we were at 90% capacity and our clinics were very busy, so we know Iowans depend on us,” Gunasekaran said. “And we know there will be a return to the community depending on us, so the last thing we want to do is look at layoffs.”

UIHC is far from the only hospital in this position. Statewide, other hospitals also have to adjust. A few hospitals in eastern Iowa have already put workers on furlough.

Administrators say the next step is to get people to come back to the hospital. That will help with their finances, as well as to regain a sense of normalcy.

“The real issue is come get the care you need, I don’t think this is the time to get optional procedures done, and we’re not encouraging anyone to come get cosmetic procedures done,” Gunasekaran said. “But if you need something done and you have the kinds of conditions that UI usually manages, we want to see you. We want to see you in person to make sure you are doing well.”

Officials estimate it’ll take the next year or so to handle the financial hits from the pandemic. Any major decisions with staff likely won’t happen for a few weeks or even months.

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