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.