Florida health system brings back 640 furloughed workers

Sarasota (Fla.) Memorial Health Care System was one of more than 265 hospitals and health systems to furlough workers this spring due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Though the health system has brought back furloughed workers, it is still navigating financial challenges tied to the pandemic.

The health system reported revenue of $720.5 million in the nine months ended June 30, down 2.7 percent from the same period a year earlier, according to unaudited financial documents. The revenue decline was largely due to lower patient volume in late March and April. The health system said hospital activity in the second half of March was about half of normal volume, and patient service revenue in April was $23.6 million lower than April 2019. Volumes began to recover in May, and patient service revenue was only down $82,000 year over year in June. 

Operating expenses were up in the nine months ended June 30, climbing 3.9 percent year over year. The rise was attributed to higher wages and pharmaceutical inflation. Through June 30, there were $4.1 million in expenses directly related to the treatment of COVID-19 at 839-bed Sarasota Memorial Hospital, according to the financial documents. 

The health system ended the period with operating income of $21.5 million, down 68 percent from the nine-month period ended June 30, 2019. 

Sarasota Memorial Health Care took several steps to help offset financial damage tied to the pandemic, including furloughing employees. The health system said it furloughed 640 workers in April, but many of those workers returned to work in May. By June there were no staff on furlough, the health system said. 

The health system also received loans and grants to help navigate the financial challenges linked to the pandemic. In April, the health system received $24 million in federal COVID-19 relief grants and $146 million in Medicare advance payments. The system will begin paying back the advance payments in August. 

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