Revenue returns to Juneau’s Bartlett Regional Hospital after a year of pandemic losses

A nearly empty critical care unit at Bartlett Hospital on April 7, 2020, in Juneau, Alaska. on (Photo by Rashah McChesney/KTOO)

Bartlett Regional Hospital in Juneau is seeing a return of revenue after a year of pandemic losses.

Kevin Benson is the chief financial officer for the city-owned hospital. Benson said that even before the hospital started seeing revenue again, Bartlett was breaking even, thanks to federal relief money.

“About $6 million in CARES [Act] dollars were used to prop up the operations of the hospital and financially keep us whole,” Benson said. He said that $6 million is about equal to how much money the hospital made in the last year before the pandemic.

“But we’ve exhausted all of the funds that we had received. So unless there’s more forthcoming we’ll be probably incurring some losses.”

Bartlett had to spend a lot of money on the pandemic, and at the same time, patient volume was down. Things like personal protective equipment, oxygen, and ventilation upgrades for the building cost a lot of money. The hospital also kept staff employed in case COVID-19 hospitalizations spiked.

Financial losses are due to a six-week closure to non-elective and non-emergency procedures, and the loss of the tourism season. Tourists — mostly from cruise ships — accounted for more than 1,500 patients in 2019.

There have also been some positive changes due to COVID-19. Chief Operations Officer Billy Gardener said telehealth has been an unexpected boon.

“When you think ‘telehealth service’ in a community like Juneau, you really want to also think ‘specialty services’ because the COVID-19 pandemic forced a lot of specialty services onto telehealth platforms to keep their businesses whole. Well, that opens up a new menu for Juneau where traditionally, you know, we were bound by who would come to town,” Gardener said.

Hospital administrators hope to catch some of the more than $8 billion in federal money Congress has pledged to fight the coronavirus. But when that money comes — and how much Bartlett gets — is still a question mark.

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