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Forsyth County hospitals, family practices experience revenue loss during pandemic
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Northside Hospital Forsyth (GoogleMaps)

Many hospitals and health care providers throughout Forsyth County and the state have seen significant drops in scheduled procedures and in their revenue as the coronavirus pandemic has forced many to stay home.

Northside Hospital Forsyth is one of many hospitals in the state that have admitted to a heavy drop in revenue since the pandemic hit Georgia and the hospital started to see its first COVID-19 patients early in March.

“All areas of Northside patient care have been impacted by COVID-19, and returning to previous levels of volume and revenue will take time,” Vice President of Marketing Lee Echols said. “How much time is impossible to know.”

Parts of Northside Hospital Forsyth have remained closed over the last couple of months as many in the county have decided to forgo non-emergency procedures until after the pandemic starts to subside.

Echols predicts that as the state begins to open back up and residents slowly start to feel safe going out again, more patients will start scheduling appointments.

“As our volumes rebound, revenue should follow, and we’ll continue to navigate our new health care world with flexibility and focus,” Echols said. “As patients return, we’re ensuring that our facilities and clinics are safe, and they are. That’s our No. 1 job in addition to providing care.”

The Northside team did not respond in time for publication when asked how their loss in revenue has had an impact on hospital staff members and other hospital operations.

Georgia Hospital Association spokesperson Erin Stewart said that all hospitals in Georgia have felt the financial strain caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. At the time, hospitals halted elective procedures to make sure that they had beds and equipment to support a possible surge in COVID-19 patients.

Hospitals in Georgia have received some financial help from the federal government through the Coronavirus Relief Fund along with grant help from the GHA. Community members in Forsyth County have also tried to help hospital workers in the area by donating food and needed protective equipment.

“We are grateful for their generosity,” Echols said.

The GHA has also provided hospitals in Georgia with information and resources needed to keep up with added costs and revenue lost during the past few months. Other organizations have also provided advice to hospitals looking to begin elective procedures again.

The American College of Surgeons, American Society of Anesthesiologists, Association of periOperative Registered Nurses, and the American Hospital Association released a joint statement advising hospitals to not open elective procedures back up until there is a “sustained reduction in the rate of new COVID-19 cases in the relevant geographic area for at least 14 days.”

Stewart said that many hospitals in Georgia have resumed these elective processes and are welcoming in patients.

“Now that hospitals are back open for those elective, but necessary, procedures, the community can help by not delaying needed care,” Stewart said. “Hospitals are ready to treat all patients, especially those whose care should not be delayed any longer.”

Many other health care workers at local and family practices said that while they have also seen a drop in their number of patients, business has slowly started to pick back up.

Dr. Jim Morrow with Morrow Family Medicine said that, for a while, not many of his patients were scheduling appointments to come in, and business had gone down drastically as they were only seeing about half of the patients they normally would. Even after beginning to offer telemedicine in March, he still found that not as many were scheduling appointments.

With the state opening back up and social distancing measures in place, however, more have felt comfortable coming in to seek treatment. While Morrow said the practice is certainly not back to normal yet, they are “getting there.”

Vickery Pediatrics has seen a similar loss of business over the past two months, but the team there is trying everything they can to make sure that their help is available to kids who need it.

The practice released a statement saying that they are taking calls from parents right now to determine if their children need care either through telemedicine or through an in-person office visit. Although the team understands that parents want to keep their kids home and safe, they said it is important to at least stay connected.

“Now more than ever, it's very important that families stay connected to their pediatrician and their medical home,” the statement reads. “Your pediatrician cares about the health of your baby, child or teen and is happy to talk to you about anything from medicines and illnesses to injuries and behavior issues.”

While Morrow and Vickery Pediatrics are still trying to find ways to get back to normal, Sandy Dickerhofe, a dental assistant with Lanier Dental Partners, said that, after being closed for more than a month at the start of the pandemic, her office is bustling with those seeking dental work.

“It was hard, but now it’s crazy busy,” Dickerhofe said.

Although Lanier Dental Partners has found success in reopening, many health care facilities, like so many other businesses in Forsyth County, are still struggling to find their footing during the pandemic. 

“We want to continue to encourage everyone to stay home when they can, wear masks when out and about, and wash your hands regularly and thoroughly,” Northside spokeswoman Katherine Watson said. “Staying healthy helps ensure fewer people become infected and admitted for care.”