No Disaster Planning

It’s time for Sansum’s administration be held accountable for the current fiscal crisis and quit blaming their circumstances on patient “fear.” Sansum’s administration declared an emergency in the first week. It then announced the furlough of 500 employees and since have reduced clinic hours.

With a $300+ million budget, did the administration not have a contingency plan and reasonable operating reserve? According to their 990 tax returns, no.

Back to the issue of patient fear … as a patient, Sansum has canceled three appointments in the past six weeks. As S.B.’s major medical provider, management has left us too vulnerable to their lack of competence. The Sansum doctors, nurses, care providers, and staff, as well as patients, deserve better. If they are bailed out, I hope the board looks seriously at the lack of disaster planning.

Sansum Replies: Managing the financial impact of COVID-19 on the operation of Sansum Clinic has certainly been challenging. We were legally required to follow the state’s shutdown order in March which resulted in a swift 50 percent reduction in our patient volume. Many people decided to cancel or reschedule their medical appointments. Due to the financial losses from this, we had to make the difficult decision to temporarily furlough some employees in order to survive for the long-term. Our doctors and our executives took pay cuts along with staff members. Patients have concerns about getting exposed wherever they go, and many are afraid to go to medical facilities. But, even if all patients had no fear at all, we were prohibited from operating (literally in many cases), and the cancellation of procedures and visits to comply with governmental requirements and to protect the Public Health is what induced for Sansum the same problem that hit every other provider of healthcare.

Sansum Clinic is unique in that we are not formally affiliated with a hospital or large health-care system that could assist us monetarily. We do not have the reserves of our colleagues, all of whom are affiliated with hospital systems many times our size, even though we perform in the top tier of those same colleagues. Our current financial situation is not the result of mismanagement. Most other hospitals and large clinics are reporting very significant financial stresses. Individual doctor offices are struggling too. The entities not having to do what we did just had deep enough pockets to avoid those painful actions. We are working with lawmakers at the state and federal level to try and secure any financial assistance that may be available to us.

We have enacted extraordinary precautions to allow patients with essential medical needs to still have in-person appointments with us. We have conducted more than 19,000 Telehealth virtual visits while patients remained safely at home. With some state restrictions now eased on the kinds of care we can offer, we are gradually beginning to add back certain types of visits and procedures. We hope this will ultimately lead to us welcoming back our furloughed staff members. Our employees are the heart of Sansum Clinic and we are proud of their dedication before and during COVID-19. We have been partners with our community for nearly 100 years, and we will remain vigilant and determined to provide the care our patients deserve.

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