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Patients Continue to Avoid Hospital Care Amid Pandemic

New data shows that New Jersey residents are slow to return to hospitals to receive non-COVID services, raising concerns about individuals’ health and the financial impact on the state’s hospitals.

Hospital utilization data through Sept. 30, 2020, reveals a 27% decline in emergency department visits, a 20% decline in outpatient volume and a 9.7% decline in inpatient admissions compared with year-to-date third quarter 2019, according to the analysis from the Center for Health Analytics, Research and Transformation (CHART) at the New Jersey Hospital Association. That continues a trend seen in New Jersey beginning in March 2020 of people avoiding hospital-based care.

The full report can be found at Hospital-Financial-Impact-COVID-19.pdf (njha.com).

“Our hospitals are taking extraordinary COVID-19 safety precautions to be the centers of safety and care that our communities rely on,” said NJHA President and CEO Cathy Bennett.  “We must look out for our family, our friends, our neighbors and ourselves to ensure we are still getting regular care and are on alert for serious symptoms.”

The decline in patient volume comes at the same time that hospitals’ expenses are increasing due to the demands for staffing, personal protective equipment, pharmaceuticals, physical plant changes, technology and other supplies to safely care for both COVID and non-COVID patients.

Overall expenses increased 10% over the first nine months of 2020, while overall revenue fell 2.6% during the same time frame compared with 2019.

The combined impact has driven 41% of the state’s hospitals into the red through the third quarter of 2020, with an average statewide operating margin of just 1.6%. By comparison, for the same time period in 2019, 22% of the state’s hospitals posted losses, and the average operating margin was 3.6%.

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