Just two months ago, Titus County in northeast Texas had a high-traffic medical center with 800 employees, an average of 65 patients in the emergency room and an entryway manned by senior volunteers selling buttery popcorn.
Now, ER traffic has slowed to a crawl. Ten percent of the staff is out of work. And the hospital’s chief executive officer, Terry Scoggin, says the 108-bed facility is sitting on just a few months of cash — even with new money it's getting from a federal stimulus package.
It's not alone.
As hospitals brace for a potential influx of COVID-19 patients, some facilities are shedding staff members, cutting hours and hemorrhaging money. It’s an unexpected side effect of a steep drop-off in lucrative surgeries, meant to free up hospital bed space and preserve protective equipment for the coronavirus outbreak.
An order from Gov. Greg Abbott — which postponed all procedures not “immediately medically necessary” — dovetailed with public health warnings that urged patients to delay care and avoid medical facilities where they could be exposed to the virus. Emergency rooms have reported fewer arrivals as Texans hunker down in compliance with stay-at-home orders.
Staff members at Titus Regional Medical Center promote the message: “Stay home, stay healthy.”
“We're encouraging people not to come to the hospital right now unless they are really sick, and that's the reality,” said Scoggin, who’s worked in health care for eight years. “They're not coming. There's no revenue there. So you're going to have to cut back on expenses and consolidate.”