Tenet Healthcare said Tuesday the company is making considerable progress getting patients back into its facilities, with admissions back to 90% of their pre-pandemic levels and hospital surgeries at 95% in the first half of June.
Leaders with the Dallas-based hospital chain in an update for investors said they're taking extensive measures to protect staff and patients from contracting COVID-19, including separating patients with the coronavirus into single facilities or areas.
"We're very proud even through the height of this at how low our staff infections occurred, especially compared to the norm," CEO Ron Rittenmeyer said on the call.
The improved admissions include markets where there is ongoing COVID-19 activity, such as in Massachusetts, the Miami area and near Los Angeles. Surgical cases across Tenet's ambulatory surgery centers were at 85% of pre-COVID levels in the first half of June. Outpatient visits were 70% and emergency department visits were 75%.
Tenet's COVID-19 patients today skew younger—in their mid 30s to mid 60s—compared with 4 to 6 weeks ago, Saum Sutaria, Tenet's chief operating officer, said on the call. He said the economics are better on those patients because they require less intensive care and shorter lengths of stay.
"It's not surprising that we're seeing more community-based spread as things open up and as obviously the unfortunate events of the last few weeks might increase that in the next few weeks from a COVID standpoint," he said. "But there is a bit of a shift that we're seeing in the mix of our patients with COVID in the hospitals."
The 20% Medicare add-on payment for inpatient COVID-19 patients under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act—while appreciated—is not enough to offset the costs of treating those patients, Sutaria said.
Executives said Tenet has also managed to boost its liquidity. As of June 15, the company had nearly $2.7 billion in excess cash, thanks in part to $172 million in safety net grants it received under the federal stimulus program last week. That brings Tenet's total stimulus grants to about $689 million, the company's chief financial officer, Dan Cancelmi, said on Tuesday's call. That likely won't all be recognized as revenue in the second quarter, however.
Tenet also received $1.5 billion in advanced Medicare payments. That money will need to be repaid next April, although Cancelmi said Tenet is trying to get the government to extent the repayment terms.
Democratic lawmakers included relaxed repayment terms for the $100 billion in Medicare accelerated payments in an opening bid approved by the U.S. House of Representatives in May. The proposal, which would mark the fifth COVID-19 relief package, has not been taken up in the GOP-led Senate.
"We continue to believe we will not have significant cash burn in the second quarter," he said.
Tenet still plans to close on the sale of its Memphis facilities this year, and is exploring potential sale-leaseback transactions of some facilities, although it won't be a fire sale.