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Sunday, May 19, 2024

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Cape Regional, Shore Medical Excluded From Federal Funding

Cape Regional Medical Center

By Karen Knight

To access the Herald’s local coronavirus/COVID-19 coverage, click here.
COURT HOUSE – Shore Medical Center and Cape Regional Medical Center have been omitted from federal funding of hospitals fighting COVID-19, and they are urging residents to contact their U.S. senator to “correct this oversight.”
“We need to make sure that assistance represents the shared sacrifices that healthcare workers at our medical centers have made,” Susan Staeger, marketing and public relations coordinator, Cape Regional Health System, and Brian Cahill, Shore Medical Center spokesperson, said, in a joint May 5 statement. “Shore and Cape Regional abided by all federal and state guidelines to protect their staff and care for COVID-19 patients by shutting down services. As a result, we have lost millions of dollars.
Heeding the directives of the federal and state governments, hospitals across the country discontinued elective surgeries and other non-emergent services in mid-March.
“The reasoning was to ensure the safety of the staff and public, and to allocate every resource possible to protect the frontline clinicians and to treat patients with the COVID-19 virus,” Staeger explained.
Shore and Cape Regional have treated patients through the flu season starting as far back as January, Cahill said.
“It’s very likely we were treating people who had the coronavirus prior to the deadline, but we didn’t know that because we didn’t have test kits until March 17,” he added.
“As we retrospectively reviewed our Emergency Department visits and inpatient admissions to the beginning of the national outbreak, it became apparent that there were COVID-19 infections in our community (back then),” Staeger said. 
“These patients are not included in the Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) minimum threshold of 100 patients admitted prior to April 10, 2020,” Staeger stated. “If these patients were included, Shore and Cape Regional would receive the funding they deserve. Instead, they, their patients and their staff have been forgotten.
The discontinuation of services, while necessary according to Staeger and Cahill, “is proving to be financially crippling to many hospitals. Without revenue coming in for elective surgeries and procedures, hospitals took measures that included staff reductions in non-clinical areas and salary adjustments, but these measures alone were not enough. The government knew this, and therefore, passed bills to provide financial relief to the hospitals.”
According to the HHS website, on May 1, the HHS awarded $12 billion to 395 hospitals that provided inpatient care for 100 or more COVID-19 patients through April 10, $2 billion of which will be distributed to these hospitals based on their Medicare and Medicaid disproportionate share and uncompensated care payments. There is also $10 billion awarded to rural hospitals, many of which were operating on thin margins before COVID-19 and have also been particularly devastated by this pandemic.
At Gov. Phil Murphy’s May 2 COVID-19 briefing, he announced 53 New Jersey hospitals would receive $1.7 billion in federal funding because of the “financial beating” they took in paying for staff and equipment to fight the coronavirus.
“As non-COVID-19 patients delay care and cancel elective services, rural hospitals are struggling to keep their doors open,” Staeger stated.
Closing to elective surgeries and procedures was “absolutely the right decision,” she said, “and while tragically too many lives were lost, many others were saved, and we were able to protect our staff and care for the sick. Hospitals are still abiding by the guidance of the Federal and State governments, and remain completely focused on COVID-19.
“Fortunately, the number of diagnosed cases in Atlantic and Cape May counties have been relatively low so far,” Cahill added, “but whether it was one patient or 100, Shore and Cape Regional embraced the same risk as every other hospital. Every patient’s life and every clinician who cared for them should be counted and valued the same as those in other hospitals in the state and across the country.”
“We have been blessed to have received generous support from our community, but the funds raised only offset a fraction of what was lost,” Staeger added.
“We need your help to make sure that everyone matters, regardless of the size of the hospital or the community it serves,” Staeger and Cahill said. “We are all supposed to be in this together.” Both Staeger  and Cahill urged concerned citizens to contact their local representatives to “correct this oversight.”
To contact Karen Knight, email kknight@cmcherald.com.

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