Ascension reports second-highest COVID-19 inpatient count

Dive Brief:

  • Ascension, one the largest health systems in the country, reported a significant increase in patient volumes during its quarter ended Sept. 30. As a result, net revenue from patient services grew by almost 7% over the prior-year period. This helped to boost total revenue growth to about 5%.
  • The St. Louis-based nonprofit reported an operating income of $25,000,000 for the quarter. This is a sharp decline from the previous-year period. The system attributed the steep decline to the decrease in government funding that was funneled towards providers to help them weather this pandemic.
  • According to Ascension’s financial reports, Ascension saw an increase in patients, which required them to use more contract labor, expensive drugs and personal protection equipment. As a result, expenses increased 6.4%. Ascension’s net income for the year was $80.4 million. This is a significant drop from the $1.2 Billion reported in the prior-year period.
  • Dive Insight

    Ascension reported record COVID-19 inpatient numbers for the quarter, just like other operators, even though vaccines are now widely available.

    Ascension stated it “experienced the second highest inpatient census for COVID patients since the onset of the pandemic.”Most notable were the recurrent COVID-19 spikes in its southern markets.

    The financial resultsFriday’s announcement comes as federal officials report an increase of COVID-19 hospitalizations, even among the vaccinated. The FDA approved boosters for all adults, after previously authorizing them for people with certain conditions. This is to stop another surge.

    Volumes are still below pre-pandemic levels but Ascension saw significant volume growth in the same quarter last year.

    Ascension reported that equivalent discharges, admissions to emergency rooms, urgent care visits, physician office and clinic visits increased by 5% over the previous year. The most notable increase was 18% in emergency room visits.

    Volume gains were not seen in all key categories. Ascension reported that total surgery visits fell nearly 4% because there were fewer inpatient surgeries.

    As the industry continues to face labor challenges, Ascension reported an increased in salaries, wages, and benefits due to higher labor costs.

    Patients staying longer is another problem. According to the slight rise in case mix index, they are now more sick than they were a year ago. Patients now require more care and supplies which has resulted in an increase in the cost of discharge.

    Other large nonprofits, such as CommonSpirit or Providence Health, also felt the pinch from increased demand for services due to the delta surge.

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