In a survey of nearly 440 hospitals, nearly half reported a net loss at the end of September, according to a Thomson Reuters report. Thirty percent reported negative operating margins during the first nine months of the year, a troubling trend in light of the economys rapid and deep contraction between October and December.
The median net margin dipped below 1% to 0.12% as of Sept. 30, far from the 5.04% median net margin reported in the third quarter of 2007. The median operating margin, which does not include investments, was 2.89% as of Sept. 30, just shy of the 2.95% reported for the same quarter the prior year. Hospitals cash cushion gradually eroded last year when measured by the number of days a hospital can run on its reserves. The median days of cash on hand slipped from about 118 days at the end of March to roughly 110 days as of Sept. 30, according to the report. The survey is drawn from a proprietary database of Thomson Reuters clients that the company considers to be a representative sample of general acute-care hospitals.