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Local hospitals to share $1.4 billion in federal aid

Area hospitals that are financially reeling from the costs of Covid-19 care and lost revenues from the state ban on elective surgery got some good news Monday.

A federal aid package so far has sent nearly $2.5 billion to hospitals in New York State, including $1.4 billion for upstate New York and tens of millions for facilities in the Buffalo Niagara region.

The size of the local checks, announced Monday by Sen. Charles E. Schumer and Rep. Brian Higgins, was determined by the Health and Human Services Department under the terms of a $100 billion aid package passed by Congress and signed by President Trump in late March.

So far, $50 billion has been distributed nationwide.

“There are no words that can appropriately express the appreciation we have for our health care workers, who know the danger they are walking into and continue to head to work each day prepared for battle,” Higgins said. “They need supplies, resources and support. This is a start.”

The payments include more than $25.4 million for Kaleida Health, including Buffalo General Medical Center, Millard Fillmore Suburban Hospital, Oishei Children's Hospital and DeGraff Memorial Hospital in North Tonawanda.

Catholic Health System will receive a total of $20.1 million for Sisters of Charity, St. Joseph, Mercy, Kenmore Mercy and Mount St. Mary's hospitals.

The package included nearly $11.5 million for Erie County Medical Center; almost $11.9 million for Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center; nearly $1.9 million for Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center; and about $1.1 million for Eastern Niagara Hospital in Lockport.

Other aid payouts in the region included almost $3.5 million for Kaleida-affiliated Olean General Hospital; $1 million for Dunkirk-based Brooks-TLC Hospital System; $961,000 for Wyoming County Community Health System; $471,000 for Bertrand Chaffee Hospital in Springville; $380,000 for Medina-based Orleans Community Health; and $126,000 for Westfield Memorial Hospital.

Schumer said Monday's checks are the second round of payments from the $50 billion, and more money is coming for the hospitals in the next few days.

Hospital leaders all said they were grateful for the money, but they said more would be needed to stem the tides of red ink.

“This first wave is a great start," Catholic Health CEO Mark Sullivan said. "It’s not necessarily reflective of the Covid burden. The formulas were based on Medicare fee-for-service data. As they move down into the next phases, any day now, it’ll be based on Covid burden, which will definitely help.”

These payments are separate from Wednesday's announcement of $4.3 billion in federal aid to New York because it was designated as one of the Covid-19 "hot spots." Indeed, New York is the hottest spot, with more Covid-19 cases and deaths than any other state.

"These dollars are greatly needed, since ECMC and other hospitals in Western New York have incurred significant losses in revenues and increases in expenses due to the Covid-19 pandemic," ECMC spokesman Peter K. Cutler said. "While these funds are helpful, we hope that more federal support will be forthcoming since these dollars will cover less than half of our losses to date."

“This federal funding helps cover a fraction of Roswell Park’s Covid-19 impact," said Candace S. Johnson, Roswell president and CEO.

"Every hospital in New York and across the nation has faced mandated costs associated with the pandemic, including surge preparedness, construction, training, increased cost of equipment and (personal protective equipment), and keeping our center operational with significantly decreased patient volumes." Johnson said.

“Clearly, hospitals in Western New York and across the state have suffered significant financial losses due to Covid-19," said Kaleida Health spokesman Michael P. Hughes. "This initial tranche of funding will help combat, but not erase, the massive budget shortfalls that we are all facing. We thank Sen. Schumer for advocating on our behalf and we are very hopeful that the federal government will continue to assist the hospitals moving forward.”

“Our hospitals and providers have been New York’s heroes in the fight against Covid-19, and these critical dollars will help keep the fight against the virus going strong," Schumer said in a prepared statement. “New York and its hospitals have been on the front line of the battle against the virus for over a month now and they are struggling."

Catholic Health said last week it has losses of about $45 million a month, Kaleida Health said it has losses of $30 million a month and ECMC cited losses of about $10 million since the pandemic began.

“The burden for not performing elective surgeries is $40 million a month, so you can see $20 million would be about half a month of recovery," said Sullivan of Catholic Health.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo announced last week that elective surgeries, a key source of hospital income, would be allowed again, starting Tuesday, in some parts of the region, but not in Erie County, where the Covid-19 caseload was deemed too large.

"The $1.87 million we are scheduled to receive will help offset not only the $6 million to $7 million in revenue we lost in March and April but an additional $1.5 million to $2 million in Covid-related expenses we incurred over the same period," said Joseph A. Ruffolo, Niagara Falls Memorial's president and CEO.

Last week, Kaleida announced it was seeking voluntary furloughs among its 8,000 unionized workers, while Catholic Health furloughed 1,200 employees.

On April 16, Eastern Niagara furloughed 60 employees and Niagara Falls Memorial furloughed 52. In addition, executives took major pay cuts at Kaleida, Catholic Health and Niagara Falls Memorial.

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