California hospitals lose $14 billion in 2020, face financial impacts for years

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Posted at 4:30 PM, Apr 28, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-28 19:30:40-04

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) – Our California hospital system is taking a major financial hit from the pandemic. Adding resources like staff, beds, and testing put hospitals at a $14 billion loss in 2020 according to the California Hospital Association.

At the start of the pandemic, hospitals were racing to add more space and resources. Doctors and nurses were overworked while PPE and ventilators were nearly impossible to find. Healthcare leaders across the state say they’re still struggling to stay afloat.

“We struggle year after year to break even. A disaster like COVID-19 puts us firmly in the red,” said Mike Wiltermood, President & CEO, Enloe Medical Center in Chico, Calif.

According to a report by Kaufman Hall for the California Hospital Association:

  • California hospitals lost more than $14 billion in 2020
  • They could lose another $2 billion in 2021
  • Financial impacts will likely last beyond 2021

USCD Health was one of the first hospital groups to fight COVID-19 in the United States. They treated patients that flew to San Diego from Wuhan, China in early 2020.

“We’ve been in a full-on sprint in what turned out to be a marathon ever since,” said Patty Maysent, President & CEO of UC San Diego Health.

Since then, they’ve invested in things like testing and novel therapies. They’ve expanded their own capacities while still sending resources to El Centro and Mexico. They also launched the state’s first vaccine superstation at Petco Park.

“The financial impact of COVID-19 swept over $200 million off of our UCSD health balance sheets. Dollars we were preserving to rebuild our Hillcrest hospital,” said Maysent.

But, things are on the right track. With cases in California lower than any other state, local leaders say hope is closer than it’s ever been.

“Our economy is coming back, kids are back in school, padres are winning, people are getting vaccinated,” said County Supervisor Nathan Fletcher. “All-in-all we are in a position to continue to do really well.”

Hospital leaders say they’re hoping additional funding from the state and federal government will help offset some of their costs.