Lee Health projects $85M in losses past couple months

Published: May 7, 2020 6:08 PM EDT
Updated: May 7, 2020 6:18 PM EDT

The region’s largest employer is projecting millions of dollars in losses for the past couple months and says it could take years to recover.

We looked at what Lee Health’s projected $85 million in losses through March and April could mean for employees and the future of patient care.

Making up $85 million is not going to be easy or done quickly. But Lee Health’s chief financial officer believes they can do it without slashing the payroll.

Lee Health started canceling elective surgeries and doctor’s visits the second half of March.

In those two weeks, Lee Health “received about $20 million less than we normally we would have from our budget,” said Ben Spence, Lee Health’s chief financial and business services officer.

Spence painted a dark picture of Lee Health’s finances. He said, during the day’s finance and investment committee call, March was very bad and April will be incredibly awful.

“It’s absolutely the worst revenue lost we’ve ever experienced in one month,” Spence said.

He projects a $65 million loss. That’s 85 million in six weeks.

Spence said no one could have ever expected an 11% reduction in ER visits and medical admissions.

“Heart attack, strokes, how can these not come to the hospital? Falls?” Spence said. “And we know that, in some cases, the fear of the hospital is causing poor decisions in not coming to the hospital.”

Spence said fear forced people to turn to telehealth or home health to deal with less urgent issues.

So while revenue is way down, “Let’s look at the payroll,” Spence said. “Are those dollars going down in a corresponding relationship to the volumes? And what you’ll see is that no they’re not.”

The good news before the pandemic hit: Spence says Lee Health was experiencing phenomenal growth — $200 million a year.

So while $85 million in losses is alarming, Spence did not recommend layoffs.

Resuming elective surgeries is a start. But people using the hospital like they did before the pandemic is the only way to see those pre-pandemic profits in 2021 or more likely 2022.

But Spence admits that might not happen. So Lee Health will have to adjust.