As we fight the coronavirus pandemic, it is important that we lawmakers give support to the people on the front lines. This means our state’s hospitals, physicians, nurses, support staff, and other health care providers.
They risk their own health every day to go to work, along with the health of their families. Any legislation that is taken up by the Assembly and Senate in response to Covid-19 must ensure that Wisconsin hospitals have the resources to continue operation and it should be a priority.
My sister Elaine has been furloughed from Marshfield Clinic as a result of reductions in elective care. Even without reductions to elective procedures, hospitals in Wisconsin still do not have enough personal protective equipment (PPE) to meet the current demand from Covid-19. Shortages of PPE will certainly impact our hospitals when they re-start regular operations and begin to recover from the tremendous financial losses mounting every day.
The Assembly and Senate are set to take up legislation this week to alleviate problems caused by the pandemic. I joined my colleagues in asking legislative leaders for three things: To increase procurement of personal protective equipment; provide paid sick time for health care workers who contract Covid-19; and provide hazard pay and full health care coverage for all health care workers.
As of Monday, 3,438 people in Wisconsin tested positive for Covid; 993 people were hospitalized; and 154 died, the largest numbers being in Milwaukee and Dane counties.
In Wisconsin, hospitals large and small are facing significant cash-flow problems as a result of having to cancel elective procedures under government order to protect the public health. With this order, hospital revenue losses are estimated to be around $170 million per week in Wisconsin. These weekly revenue losses are expected to be $266 million when you add in health system physicians and clinic services. Cash-flow problems for hospitals and clinics result in reductions in workforce and access to care, two consequences Wisconsin cannot afford.
We in the Legislature know that support from the federal government will not be enough to ensure our state’s hospitals are protected from this crisis. It is unknown how much funding, if any, Wisconsin health care providers will receive from the federal CARES Act.
Governor Evers has recognized this need and prioritized hospital funding in his Covid response proposal, including $75 million in supplemental payments to hospitals. Any and all financial resources the Legislature can provide to hospitals are needed.
Other state legislatures and governors have already allocated hundreds of millions to support hospitals and health care providers. I want to make sure our community hospitals survive. The people on the front lines deserve our support. We must make them a priority.