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Wyoming hospitals, providers receive more than $48 million in coronavirus relief funding
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Wyoming hospitals, providers receive more than $48 million in coronavirus relief funding

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ICU

IV bags hang in the hallways of the ICU at Wyoming Medical Center on Friday in Casper. The ICU can house 14 patients, but staff also prepared an older nursery to accommodate more if necessary. 

More than $48 million has been dished out to nearly 400 Wyoming providers, clinics and hospitals as part of the federal government’s efforts to prop up physicians and facilities that have been walloped by the effects of the coronavirus.

The bulk of the money — roughly $32 million — has gone to Wyoming’s hospitals, with the rest going to various clinics and providers. The money has come in two waves, as part of tens of billions of dollars set aside by Congress to help hospitals and providers in various ways. In Wyoming, as is true across America, the medical industry has been battered by the coronavirus.

To save equipment and keep beds open, hospitals stopped providing the moneymaking elective procedures. Individual clinics saw fewer patients in person and also stopped performing their own procedures.

As a result, facilities’ revenues have plummeted. Cheyenne Regional Medical Center spokeswoman Kathy Baker said the hospital lost $27 million in April — a net loss of more than $9.6 million — with further losses in March and more to come this month. Felicia Messimer, spokeswoman for Campbell County Health, said that facility experienced “almost a 50% reduction in volume in April.”

Cheyenne Regional received about $7.2 million, with slightly more going to its subsidiary clinics. Wyoming Medical Center got $5.6 million, Campbell County received $2.4 million, and Lifepoint — the group that owns SageWest in Fremont County — got nearly $3 million.

Most hospitals listed received more than $1 million, but some — like Powell Valley Health Care, which got $772,000 — received less. Some money was dished out to providers not based in Wyoming. Poudre Valley Medical Group, for instance, is a Fort Collins-based facility that’s part of UC Health. It received nearly $5.2 million, more than almost anyone else. It’s unclear why the facility was listed in Wyoming’s accounting. Messages sent to federal officials who oversee the funds were not returned this week.

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The rest of the money was delivered to smaller entities, typically in the five- or six-figure dollar range. Rocky Mountain Infectious Disease in Casper, for instance, received $163,835. Casper’s urology clinics got a little under $80,000. The bulk of the smaller clinics received fewer than $50,000.

Hospital officials all said that while the money was helpful and much needed, it wouldn’t be enough to cover losses.

“The actual loss occurring in March, as well as the estimated losses for April, May and possibly June will far exceed this initial payment,” WMC spokeswoman Kristy Bleizeffer said. “We will continue to look for economic relief in other areas and are in consistent communication with our congressional delegation who is working hard to pass further legislation.”

“While the grant funding thus far does not make up for all of our losses, it has been very helpful,” said Neil Bertrand, the chief financial officer at Cheyenne Regional. “Without this grant money from the CARES Act, the financial picture for CRMC and (the hospital’s clinics) would have been quite bleak.”

Eric Boley, the head of the Wyoming Hospital Association, echoed those statements. He also indicated that more money should be coming as part of further stimulus dollars, some of which should be hitting hospital’s bank accounts in the coming days, if it hasn’t already.

He said the new wave of money would be the largest — in the neighborhood of $100 million. But he said hospitals had cumulatively lost tens of millions already and would likely bleed another $60 million in May.

He said he had lobbied the Wyoming Legislature and Gov. Mark Gordon to set aside some of the state’s federal money to cover bad debt — hospital services that won’t be repaid by patients — or to set up a loan program for larger hospitals, which couldn’t participate in the federal service.

At a press conference Thursday, Gordon said there was an “ongoing discussion” about helping hospitals and providers. He said one of the topics at the Legislature’s upcoming special session would be looking at “increased flexibility to deliver resources to those clinics and hospitals that need those resources.”

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Education and Health Reporter

Seth Klamann joined the Star-Tribune in 2016 and covers education and health. A 2015 graduate of the University of Missouri and proud Kansas City native, Seth worked for newspapers in Milwaukee and Omaha before coming to Casper.

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"Wyoming, we have a tendency to just kind of pooh-pooh things and blow it off," the head of the state's hospital association said, "but this thing’s here, it’s at our doorsteps, and we can control our own destiny if we do the right thing."

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