North Arkansas Regional Medical Center's financial health is a little bit better than it was a year ago when the COVID-19 pandemic began, according to a report hospital CEO Vince Leist gave the board at its regular monthly meeting Tuesday, April 27
For the month ending March 2021, admissions were 200, up from 196 a year ago. Births totaled 51, up from 32, a year ago. Total patient days were 808 compared to 761 a year ago. There were 432 surgeries compared to 358 a year ago. The emergency room numbers remain a little behind.
Year to date figures show the impact COVID-19 have had on the hospital, Leist said. Admissions were off 15%. Births were off 6%, surgeries down 18%, clinic visits 17% out-patient visits 14%. "March looks like a return to where we were in 2019. I am hopeful that trend will continue and grow. We want to invite patients to come back and get their wellness visits and there well-needed diagnostic tests and checkups, outpatient procedures and getting back to what the hospital does," he said.
The board approved the 2022 Operating Budget as recommended by the Finance Committee. The budget is based on the performance of the 2020 budget due to the disruption of normal operations caused by the pandemic. The 2022 capital budget was also approved for capital purchases totaling $1.5 million.
An urgent care location costing $316,000, and a medical urological table costing $119,000, both are budgeted items, were approved.
A three-year strategic plan was recommended by the Professional Relations Committee for adoption and three appointments were recommended to receive Allied Health privileges. All the recommendations were approved.
Leist gave a COVID-19 report provided by the Arkansas Hospital Association. As of that day there were 163 confirmed cases hospitalized across the state. "For a while we've been hanging around 150 to 160 patients," he said of the statewide numbers. In this particular case 67 of these patients have been in ICU and 26 have been on a ventilator. Also there are an additional 23 that were suspected of being infected, but their tests were not back yet, he said.
A new feature of the report shows a two week midnight snapshot of confirmed COVID-19 admits by hospital region. Most of the cases are in the metro region with 72 admissions on April 27. In comparison, the Northwest Region which includes NARMC along with the hospitals in Fayetteville, Springdale, Rogers and Bentonville only had 19 admissions.
"The overall message is, 'it ain't over until it's over,'" Leist said. New infections continue to be reported in the state. There had been a building hesitation to vaccination. Many businesses are doing what they can do to get their employees vaccinated. Efforts are being made to vaccinate younger people, he said
Josh Bright, PharmD, vice president of operations, said the hospital has conducted over 95 clinics in the last 128 days. The hospital has received 26,900 doses of vaccine and 13,000 have been administered with 7,000 redistributed to other providers. The hospital has 8,300 doses in stock. The state is being consulted to allow those doses to be moved to areas in need. This will ensure none of the vaccine expires. "We are not at risk right now of having any expire."
Bright said almost 1,000 doses are scheduled to be given next week in six clinics in Boone, Marion and Newton counties. We have seen a substantial slowdown in COVID-19 vaccine demand. This is not unique to us, he said, but seems to be a national trend.
Currently in Boone County, 22.2% of the county is fully vaccinated and another 8.5% has been partially vaccinated, compared to Newton County at 17% fully vaccinated and 9% partially vaccinated. Marion County is 18.3% fully vaccinated and 7.5% partially vaccinated. These numbers are on par with most of the state's rural areas, he said, but below the national average. He said the hospital is trying to dispel myths, trying to create incentives and drive vaccine because it is the belief that vaccination is the way to end this pandemic.
Sammie Cribbs, RN, chief nursing officer, told the board the hospital has been collaborating with the county health unit to reach out to access populations of people for vaccination. Clinics are going on site to businesses to provide the vaccine in a location these people are familiar with and will ensure a second dose will be delivered on schedule.
The hospital is continue to deploy safety mechanisms to keep its staff members and their families safe. These include social distancing, wearing masks and hand hygiene.
"We're definitely in a better place than we were a year ago," Cribbs said.