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Connecticut hospital group says 2022 was the worst year financially since pandemic started

Hospital staff thank local fire, police departments, and EMS as they pay tribute to the health care providers at Saint Mary's Hospital on the front lines taking care of patients with COVID-19 on April 10, 2020 in Waterbury, Connecticut.
Joe Amon
/
Connecticut Public
Hospital staff thank local fire and police departments and EMS personnel as they pay tribute to the health care providers at Saint Mary's Hospital on the front lines taking care of patients with COVID-19 on April 10, 2020, in Waterbury, Connecticut.

Last year was the worst year financially for Connecticut’s health care industry since the beginning of the COVID pandemic, according to a report released Tuesday.

The report by the Connecticut Hospital Association (CHA) found that hospital expenses are $3.5 billion higher than before the pandemic. That’s primarily due to increases in the cost of supplies, drugs and staffing.

The association met Tuesday to discuss the financial impact of the pandemic on Connecticut’s hospitals.

Medical supply chain prices, labor expenses and patient care costs have increased tremendously, said Jennifer Jackson, CEO of the Connecticut Hospital Association. She said the financial challenges threaten the care that employees at Connecticut hospitals are able to give to patients.

“Connecticut must focus on sustaining a robust health care delivery system for patients across the state,” Jackson said. “As the backbone of the health care system, hospitals simply cannot do this if they cannot cover the costs.”

The report finds that hospitals are treating sicker patients, which costs more money.

Jackson said the CHA conducted its own report of the 2022 financial year involving health care costs in Connecticut supported by individual analysis.

Higher labor costs are having an impact on operating margins, said Dr. Syed Ahmed Hussain, chief clinical officer at Trinity Health of New England.

The pandemic has led to more employee burnout, leading more registered nurses to retire or leave the field, Hussain said. Hospital systems are also paying higher salaries to retain workers – including those willing to work and travel to provide care.

“There is no mission without a margin,” he said. “It’s really important that financially, we are all stable, to be able to keep our doors open, keep those innovative programs in place, and build upon them to ultimately serve our community.”

Hussain adds that his team is working on “thinking outside of the box” to create a more flexible workforce for Connecticut’s health care industry.

The health care workforce shortage is straining the health care system, officials said.

The hospital association is calling on the state legislature to provide financial assistance to hospitals and health systems to help recruit and retain health care workers.