PA HOSPITALS CONTINUING TO ADJUST TO WORSENING ECONOMIC CRISIS

HARRISBURG, PA (March 12)-Pennsylvania hospitals continue to take steps to address the impact of the economic recession on their ability to care for patients 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

A March 2009 survey (a follow-up to a survey conducted in December 2008) by The Hospital & Healthsystem Association of Pennsylvania (HAP) shows that the economic environment for the state's general acute-care hospitals has not improved, and in some areas has worsened.

"These latest survey findings continue to demonstrate the importance of sustaining federal and state investments in hospitals, particularly through the Medicaid and Medicare programs that provide health care coverage for the state's elderly and most vulnerable citizens," said HAP President and CEO Carolyn F. Scanlan.

"Cutting payments to hospital under these programs jeopardizes the ability of hospitals to meet all patient and community health care needs," Scanlan said. "It also undermines the very economic stability of many Pennsylvania communities."

Key findings from the latest survey of Pennsylvania hospitals:

* Growing numbers of Pennsylvania hospitals report patient care is being significantly affected by the nation's economic recession.

* Fifty-nine percent report a moderate to significant increase in patients without health care coverage or patients needing financial help (up from 50 percent in December).

* Fifty-three percent report a moderate to significant decrease in admissions (up from 49 percent in December).

* Fifty-three percent report a moderate to significant decrease in elective procedures (up from 43 percent in December).

* Twenty-one percent report a moderate to significant increase in patients experiencing behavioral health care concerns (up from 17 percent in December).

* Growing numbers of Pennsylvania hospitals report concerns about financial operations.

* Almost all hospitals (95 percent) report that the economic crisis has affected their financial projections for the current fiscal year (up from 84 percent in December).

* Forty-five percent of hospitals report a moderate to significant increase in day-to-day financial operations (up from 42 percent in December).

* Eighty-four percent of hospitals have or are considering reducing staff to adjust to the financial crisis (up from 62 percent in December).

* Eighty-eight percent of hospitals report having reduced capital spending for building improvements, renovations, or new equipment.

There has been little or no change to the numbers of hospitals reporting declining investment income and little or no improvement for hospitals needing access to capital to improve their physical plants and technology.

"Pennsylvania's 250 acute and specialty care hospitals and health systems fulfill critical roles in responding to the increased health care needs created by the recession and are holding the economic and social fabric of their communities together," Scanlan said. "As the economic recession worsens, greater numbers of Pennsylvanians are losing health care coverage, and there are a greater number of Pennsylvanians relying on Medicaid for health care coverage-all of which strains the ability of Pennsylvania hospitals to provide vitally needed health care services to all patients."

Within the next several weeks, HAP will issue a report on the important economic contribution of hospitals to the Pennsylvania economy. According to data from the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry, in 55 of Pennsylvania's 67 counties, hospitals are among the "Top 5" employers.

"The health care sector has been an area for employment growth in Pennsylvania, but the survey findings show that as the recession deepens, hospitals are reducing staff and other expenses," Scanlan said. "Failure to protect Pennsylvania's hospitals during this economic crisis will harm access to care for Pennsylvanians and devastate the economies of communities across the state-from the largest cities, to the smallest boroughs and townships-and upend Pennsylvania's economic recovery."

HAP is a statewide membership services organization that advocates for nearly 250 Pennsylvania acute and specialty care, primary care, subacute care, long-term care, home health, and hospice providers, as well as the patients and communities they serve.

Additional information about HAP is available online at www.haponline.org.

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