Aspen Valley Hospital revenues slide because of pandemic

Aspen Valley Hospital officials are anticipating a $21.7 million shortfall in projected revenue in 2020 due to the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic.

Despite that forecast, CEO David Ressler said at the public hospital’s monthly board meeting Monday, employee furloughs and layoff are not being proposed at this time.

About 230 AVH staff and physicians attended a Zoom conference Friday and were updated on the facility’s financial picture, Ressler told the board. At Monday’s board meeting, Ressler and hospital CFO Ginette Sebenaler told the board that labor cuts are a last resort.

The hospital is, however, taking other measures to save money through attrition, postponing pay increases and basing business decisions on operational forecasting. The hospital also implemented a hiring freeze in April “because we knew we were going to be having these impacts and wanted to get ahead of the curve,” Ressler told the board.

AVH, which has just under 480 employees, has several non-patient revenue sources in place that will help it this year, according to Sebenaler. That includes $8.2 million it received through the federal Paycheck Protection Program in May; some or all of that amount could be forgiven, depending on how the hospital uses that money. Either way, it faces an audit because the amount exceeds $2 million, Sebenaler told the board.

“The amount that is forgiven will depend on the audit,” she said.

The hospital also received a $7 million grant through the CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security) Act, as well as $12 million in Medicare advanced payments that it must reimburse. Another $2 million in charitable contributions are propping up AVH’s finances, while it also is holding back on $7 million in capital expenditures planned this year.

Prior to the global pandemic breaking in mid-March, AVH was meeting its budget projections, but year-to-date figures through April show significant revenue drops in most hospital departments.

Through April, AVH’s total patient revenue was 68.1% below budget for the year, based on figures Sebenaler showed board members.

AVH projected nearly $12.6 million in patient revenue through April this year, generating just $4 million of that amount.

A number of factors have played into that drop, none more evident than AVH postponing elective surgeries for six weeks in response to public health orders made to curb the virus’ spread, as well as on recommendations from the U.S. surgeon general and the American College of Surgeons.

Elective surgeries resumed May 1 after a six-week suspension.

Outpatient surgeries through April amounted to 269, which was 27.9% lower than the 373 surgeries through the same period in 2019. AVH conducted 96 in-patient surgeries through April, compared with 135 for the first four months of 2019.

Other departments that have taken loses through April include admissions (down 18.5%), emergency department visits (down 19.9%), and outpatient admissions (down 23.5%).

One bright spot has been in the hospital’s birth center, where deliveries were up 28.3% during the same period. In April alone, 25 babies were born at AVH, hospital officials said.

“All we can do is our best to try to maintain our operations and preserve our cash and keep a very close eye on what comes next,” Ressler to the board.


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