As Santa Barbara County moves into a less restrictive COVID mode, Santa Barbara health care providers are still shaking off the impacts of the crisis. Cottage Hospital, for example, reported a significant drop — 2,012 fewer — in overnight inpatient stays this year from March 1 to August 31. Surgical procedures dropped as well, from 5,574 to 4,329. Emergency room admissions saw a smaller decline — a reduction of about 1000 patients. These numbers apply only for Cottage’s downtown Santa Barbara hospital, where administrators took pains to maximize capacity for COVID caseloads. The worry is that people delayed medical care, possibly exacerbating their health issues.
Sansum Health Clinics, the largest health-care provider on the South Coast, saw a 7 percent drop in patients and a 14 percent reduction in actual visits. According to Sansum executive Kurt Ransohoff, 23 percent of office visits were done via telehealth, not in person. Over this time, Sansum experienced a 16 percent drop — at one point, Ransohoff stated, surgeries dropped to 90 percent. Since Sansum stopped all elected mammograms for a while, it is now catching up with the backlog by scheduling mammograms on Saturdays, as well as some elective surgeries. Ransohoff said 97 percent of the employees furloughed at the height of the crisis have returned to work. None were laid off, though a few opted not to return for a host of reasons. Year to date, he said, revenues were down by “dozens of millions of dollars.” At one point, he said, “I worried we were going to lose three times that much,” adding, “We can’t do this too many times.” Sansum received $6.2 million in federal stimulus funds, roughly the equivalent of one week’s worth of revenues.
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