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Hospital applies for payroll protection; shares testing capabilities

By Debra Moore

[email protected]

During a special meeting April 14, the Plumas District Hospital board of directors formally approved a loan application for the Paycheck Protection Program available under the federal government’s CARES Act, as well as a resolution making it possible to obtain federal disaster relief funds. Both items had been discussed during the board’s regular board meeting of April 9 with the formal action taken yesterday.

“This will enable us to keep our staff working,” said JoDee Read, the hospital’s chief executive officer. As with other healthcare providers, Plumas District Hospital and its clinics, have scaled back nonessential surgeries and office visits, though Read is hopeful that will change soon.

“We’re really ramping up the ability to do virtual visits,” she said and discussed some of the options that will soon be available for those who don’t have internet access/and or devices that would facilitate such visits. “We are hoping to have a virtual clinic in our parking lot, where tablets can be given to the patients in their cars.”

Still, ultimately she wants to return to in-clinic visits for especially those instances when health care providers can best help their patients in person. Safeguards already have been established, such as limiting those with respiratory illness to one building, and patients being screened before they enter the clinics or the emergency room.

In the meantime, patient revenue has dropped. According to Chief Financial Officer Caleb Johnson, the hospital district had been averaging $150,000 per day in patient revenue, but that dropped to $100,000 in the wake of COVID-19 measures. “It was better news than I anticipated,” Read said during an April 15 interview.

While the revenue isn’t as strong as Johnson would like to see, he remained optimistic because of upcoming intergovernmental transfers, improvements in accounts receivable, and some of the opportunities for COVID relief including the payroll protection program that could provide $1.8 million to $2 million. “Absolutely, we’re going down that road,” he said. He also is looking into the hospital’s business disruption coverage and accelerated payments through Medicare.

Testing

Plumas District Hospital has been a strong advocate for testing — including testing those who are asymptomatic. To date, 81 employees have been tested; all negative. The effort was undertaken to determine asymptomatic spread in the community.

During the board’s April 9 meeting, Dr. Hannah Mirrashed presented an overview of the two-pronged approach to testing being undertaken by the hospital, using BioFire and ID-NOW, the new system provided by Abbott.

Mirrashed described the latter as “simple, easy and fast,” with a run time of between 10 to 15 minutes. The system is already being used to test influenza A and B, RSV and Strep A, and was recently approved for COVID-19. Abbott ramped up manufacturing of the test kits required to run on the device, and Mirrashed is hopeful that once they are delivered to the hotspots around the country, they will arrive in Plumas. The second opportunity is with BioFire Diagnostics, which she also described as simple, easy and fast. It also has a recently developed COVID-19 component.

Dr. Mark Satterfield, who is the county’s public health officer and also serves on the board of Plumas District Hospital, said in an April 11 interview, that Mirrashed has ensured that “within fiscal reason, our lab has the most up-to-date resources.” These tools will allow the hospital to accurately test for coronavirus in a timely manner.

Both he and Chief Operating Officer Darren Beatty said that the hospital district was lucky to have an individual of her background managing the lab, with a Ph.D. in molecular biology among other strengths. Beatty described her as “very over qualified,” but who sought the lifestyle afforded in Plumas. “I don’t believe we would be in this position (of having advanced diagnostic equipment) without her,” he said.

Daycare

Plumas District Hospital’s plans for a daycare hit a snag when construction estimates came in higher than expected. “There was only one qualified bid, and it was 2.5 times the amount that we were anticipating,” said Beatty, who is in charge of the project.

The hospital district purchased a home adjacent to the hospital campus with the goal of renovating the structure and providing daycare services for its employees’ families. Many of the healthcare providers and staff have small children, with any extra space being allocated to the community if possible.

Beatty said he would be investigating other funding possibilities including community block grants to fund the daycare.

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