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Serving Northern St. Louis County, Minnesota

Ely hospital struggled through the year of COVID-19

Financial report shows net income loss in 2020

Keith Vandervort
Posted 1/13/21

ELY – Shareholders of the Ely-Bloomenson Community Hospital’s foundation organization were recently presented with a year-end financial statement in the red, showing a net income loss of …

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Ely hospital struggled through the year of COVID-19

Financial report shows net income loss in 2020


ELY – Shareholders of the Ely-Bloomenson Community Hospital’s foundation organization were recently presented with a year-end financial statement in the red, showing a net income loss of $250,844, for 2020.
While operating revenue for the fiscal year, ended Sept. 30,2020, was at $21,223,376, total operating expenses were at $21,598,374.
The Ely Health and Hospital Foundation, the hospital’s umbrella organization, was not able to gather with shareholders for their annual meeting last month because of restrictions associated with the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, and instead were sent a written report highlighting the organization’s financial health and a look ahead to future developments at the hospital.
The 2020 EBCH annual report showed a decrease in net worth of $541,904, from $22,805,892 in 2019 to $22,263,988 in 2020.
Patti Banks took over leadership at EBCH as interim chief executive officer early in 2020, replacing Michael Coyle. The hospital’s board of directors voted in August to extend Banks’ position as CEO for another year. Banks previously held the role of Chief Operations Officer at EBCH.
In a recent interview, she said, ”Ely hospital, like many other medical facilities, was hit with a major shutdown at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic last spring, and also dealt with additional expenses to keep staff and patients safe while responding to COVID-19.”
While EBCH did finish the year at a loss, their financials are still in draft from because they are still working through interpretation of the CARES Act money, she added. On the balance sheet of the 2020 annual report financial statement, deferred revenue of $3,602,306 from the federal CARES Act is listed.
“In March, April and May, during the initial COVID-19 shutdown, we did lose revenue based on volume, and those losses are reflected in our financial statement,” Banks said. “If we could have continued with our current operations we would have been fine.”
She added, “We were also a hospital that did not lay off or furlough any of our employees. We had no job losses, like so many other health care facilities.”
Banks noted that EBCH did change their operations in response to the coronavirus pandemic. “I believe we adjusted very well. We have kept our patients safe. We have kept our community safe. Our medical staff has complimented us on how we adapted and adjusted, especially how we could segregate our COVID patients from the rest of our population.”
Inpatient days in the hospital declined from 692 in 2019 to 507 in 2020. The hospital’s occupancy rate showed a decline from 9.03 percent in 2019 to 6.61 percent in 2020. Nearly 100 fewer patients, 258 in 2019 and 157 in 2020, were also listed. Other EBCH statistics from 2019 to 2020 show declines in emergency room visits, 2,926 to 2,675, surgical procedures, 382 to 290, and outpatients, 10,443 to 6,537.
“The reason for the hit (from 2019 to 2020) was because of the forced shutdown,” she said. “We were still able to treat patients, they just stopped seeking treatment.”
Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, EBCH continues to provide information and support to the local community and surrounding service area. Highlights include:
• EBCH provided protective equipment donning and doffing training for several area groups including the Ely Police and Fire departments, Morse/Fall Lake First Responders, U.S. Border Patrol and Babbitt EMTs.
• EBCH provided training to the Ely Chamber of Commerce business members regarding the proper use of protective face masks and gloves, and serves as the local health liaison for the chamber’s upcoming WolfTrack Classic sled dog race event
• Members of EBCH meet weekly with the ISD 696 Safe Learning Plan Advisory Council to help develop and maintain their COVID-19 plan, and provided instant-read thermometers for screening school staff and students.
• EBCH reformatted their annual Free Flu Shot clinic into several “drive-through” events to allow for social distancing and COVID-19 guidelines while providing nearly 1,300 flu vaccinations.
COVID-19 continues
Banks said the coronavirus testing program at EBCH remains in place. “The systems we have established will be with us for a while as our community continues to take precautions.”
She said the testing-turnaround time relies heavily on volume, here in Ely and around the region. “We do testing results here in Ely, but once we reach a certain threshold, we do have to end them off to Mayo Clinic,” she said. “We still look at a two-day turnaround right now. We do use the rapid testing and can get results in a matter of hours.” Certain criteria must be met to administer rapid testing, she added.
By the end of the first week of January, all EBCH staff who wanted it have received COVID-19 vaccinations. “We are working with (Ely Essentia) clinic staff to get their healthcare employees vaccinated, and are working with area EMS, first responders, and dentist offices to get their workers vaccinated too.”
Minnesota is still in the beginning stages of vaccinations for Phase 1a for all healthcare workers and long-term care residents. “We anticipate moving into Phase 1b, adults age 75-plus and frontline essential workers, sometime in February,” she said. “The Minnesota) Department of Health has formed an advisory group that is formulating the upcoming 1b vaccine allocation plan. Please be patient; we are doing our best to work through this process and keep our community up to date. As information becomes available to us, we will share it.”
Banks added that the general population of the Ely area can expect to have COVID-19 vaccines available in “two or three” months.
Expansion project
A year ago, EBCH was considering embarking on a $20 million expansion project, but with the onslaught of the coronavirus pandemic, that dream was put on the back burner. “At this point, we are looking to re-strategize and re-focus that project,” Banks said. “We really need to start from scratch. I hope to start that process in mid-January.”
She added, “We do need more space here in order to expand our service offerings and to be able to have those services available to our community. In order to do it safely, because of the pandemic, as well as because we want to do quality patient care, we need the space to work in.”
She called for “re-thinking” and re-prioritizing” the type and use of space EBCH requires. She looked at solidifying a plan by mid-summer. “I can’t let this go too long. Every time we start taking steps in that direction, another phase of the pandemic hits and takes over our resources. We have a resilient and flexible staff, but we can’t over use them at this point. Maybe we can look at a first phase plan in July.”


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