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'Revenues are way down': Colorado hospital CEO talks about the hidden financial effects of COVID-19

CEO of Presbyterian St. Luke's Medical Center talks about running a hospital during a pandemic
Posted at 6:55 AM, May 19, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-19 08:55:40-04

DENVER — They prepared for the worst and hoped for the best, and that was exactly what they got.

That's what Maureen Tarrant said about Presbyterian St. Luke's Medical Center and Rocky Mountain Hospital for Children's preparations during the novel coronavirus outbreak. Tarrant has been the CEO of the hospitals since 2014.

She talked exclusively with Denver7 about the state of her hospital in the middle of a pandemic.

"Our hospital was never overwhelmed with COVID patients," she said.

Tarrant credits the state and city leaders for taking steps early to prepare area hospitals.

"We all saw the stories of some of the more densely populated areas, such as Queens, New York," Tarrant explained. "Colorado and Denver have not been like that."

In turn, Tarrant said something else happened.

"I think we had an unintended consequence: I think we made people afraid to come back to the hospital," she said.

Revenues are down at the hospital, she said. The emergency department alone has seen between a third and a half of its normal volume.

"I think of people with other medical problems as the silent majority right now," Tarrant said. "Strokes aren’t going on vacation. Heart disease isn’t going on vacation. Cancer didn’t go on vacation. Asthma didn’t go on vacation. I'm very worried there’s going to be this collateral damage because of avoidance and because of our focus on COVID-19."

It's a reality that hospitals are businesses too.

"People want to get their hours. They want get their full paycheck. We don’t want physician practices having to file bankruptcy," Tarrant said.

The key to a hospital rebound, according to Tarrant, is to remind people that hospitals are still safe and not as chaotic as you would think.

"If we think about celebrating the heroes and the healthcare workers, the nurses and the doctors, the last thing we would ever want is for them to suffer personally with financial consequences," Tarrant said.

Presbyterian St. Luke's Medical Center has not laid off or furloughed any of its workers. Employees are being offered pandemic pay, which guarantees 70% of their income through the end of June.