Ochsner reports Q1 loss, gets $166M in COVID-19 relief aid

Ochsner Health's revenue increased year over year in the first quarter of this year, but the New Orleans-based health system ended the period with an operating loss, according to unaudited financial documents

The 11-hospital system recorded revenues of $965 million in the first quarter of this year, up from $886 million in the same period of 2019. Patient service revenue climbed 1.2 percent year over year, driven by an increase in outpatient revenue. 

Patient volumes declined in March after Louisiana's governor issued a state of emergency on March 11 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Ochsner said it saw a constant increase of COVID-19 patients in its hospitals until a peak of 973 patients on April 7. Since then, the COVID-19 census has declined, reaching 294 COVID-19 patients in its hospitals as of May 6.

Ochsner said salaries and wages were up $47.3 million year over year partially due to additional staffing and clinicians needed to meet increased patient demand. The health system also paid about $3.5 million in additional hazard pay and overtime for employees working with COVID-19 patients in the first quarter of this year.

Total expenses increased 14 percent year over year, and Ochsner ended the first quarter of this year with an operating loss of $32.8 million. That's compared to operating income of $13.3 million in the same period a year earlier. 

A $110.7 million nonoperating loss pushed Ochsner to a net loss in the first quarter. The health system ended the period with a net loss of $143.6 million, compared to net income of $59.5 million in the same period of 2019. 

To help navigate the financial pressures, Ochsner received $166.3 million from the $175 billion in relief aid Congress has allocated to hospitals and other healthcare providers to cover expenses or lost revenues tied to the COVID-19 pandemic. The health system also applied for and received $202.1 million in Medicare advance payments, which must be repaid. 

To control spending, the health system has implemented a hiring freeze on nonclinical employees, reduced this year's budget for capital projects by $68 million and cut travel costs  and administrative expenses.

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