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Pullman Regional Hospital faces financial hardships amid preparations to treat coronavirus patients

Pullman Regional Hospital, pictured here prior to opening in 2004, is facing financial hardship even as it tries to remain open to treat a potential spike in coronavirus patients in the region. (Pullman Regional Hospital)
By Maggie Quinlan For The Spokesman-Review

Pullman Regional Hospital faces new financial strains spurred by the state’s COVID-19 pandemic regulations, and health care workers on the front lines will be hit hard.

PRH announced Thursday it would cut all hourly and salary employees’ pay by 25% for the next 60 days.

Expected income that would flow in from elective surgeries and outpatient procedures has been dammed up by stay-home orders, while some services have been shut down completely.

So, as of Friday, the hospital only had 64 days’ worth of cash on hand. The administration’s goal is to prevent falling below a 30-day cash supply.

“It’s been determined that is the bare minimum we can work with to fulfill our operational obligations,” said Megan Guido, the hospital’s marketing director.

That’s why, to avoid running dry, every employee at every level will take a temporary cut, including CEO Scott Adams.

If available funds sink below that 30-day mark, the hospital’s path remains uncharted. And options for financial assistance are limited, said Chief Financial Officer Steve Febus.

Febus said PRH doesn’t qualify for government assistance through various stimulus efforts, including the recent Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act – the $2.2 trillion stimulus package passed by Congress. Febus said PRH won’t see resources from the state either, as most have gone to the Department of Health and University of Washington.

The hospital will have to rely on a $9 million loan from the Medicare program approved Friday, along with donations, Guido said.

The Accelerated Payment loan will provide enough cash for 60 days, but after 120 days the hospital will need to start paying it back, Febus said. The payment will be due in full after seven months. If there is any outstanding balance after that date, PRH will pay nearly 11% interest on the remaining total.

The hospital’s other source of emergency relief – the COVID-19 Fund – has collected approximately $400,000 in donations as of Friday, with a goal of $2 million in the next six to nine months, Chief Development Officer Rueben Mayes said.

The hospital has also begun accepting donations of N95 masks, manufactured surgical masks and all homemade masks which slip over N95s, extending their useful life.

“Our community and partners have been eager to help the hospital,” he said.

Whitman County’s COVID-19 emergency response team also donated about 400 gowns and 1,400 N95 masks to the hospital after requesting personal protective equipment through the state’s emergency management operation, said Incident Commander and Director of Public Health Troy Henderson.

Hospitals in Whitman County have a limited number of beds available to treat a potential influx of coronavirus patients. PRH has about 25 total beds, and Whitman Hospital in Colfax has about 22, Henderson said. Given their usual number of patients requiring in-hospital care, each of the county’s hospitals would only be able to take 10 or 12 coronavirus patients requiring hospitalization.

And despite limited space and financial blows, PRH should be prepared for the possibility that it’ll need to care for overflow patients transferred from the Lewiston-Clarkston Valley and Spokane, he said.

“That’s a more likely scenario than our two hospitals being strained by activity in Whitman County,” Henderson said.

The county has only 11 confirmed cases, and all patients are stable and isolated at home as of Friday, according to a Whitman County Public Health news release. The county has traced these 11 patients’ contacts, and those identified as having close contact with positive individuals have received instructions from WCPH.

But testing remains limited, and there are likely many more cases in the county than have been confirmed, Henderson said. The county’s population has been limited by orders from Washington State University for students to remain home and not return to campus, however, as WSU students make up much of the county’s residents.

Hospital donations can be given through the hospital’s website at