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Wisconsin Health Care Firms Welcome Back Non-Urgent Patients — And The Revenue That Comes With Them

Chuck Quirmbach
Aurora St. Luke's Medical Center in Milwaukee is again offering services to non-urgent patients.

More Wisconsin hospitals are again offering services that were shut down while health care facilities focused on treating COVID-19 patients and urged the delay of non-urgent treatment.

We're now getting a better idea of what the loss of those other patients cost the health care industry.

"In a word, it's been an unmitigated disaster, financially,” said Jim Skogsbergh, president and CEO of Advocate Aurora Health, on Monday when speaking to the Greater Milwaukee Committee. AdvocateAurora operates St. Luke's Hospital in Milwaukee, and many other facilities in southeastern Wisconsin and northern Illinois.

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Skogsbergh says AdvocateAurora's revenue is down about 50%, while expenses for things like personal protective equipment (PPE) for health care workers are up.

"If your revenues are 50% and expenses are the same or actually higher — and they're higher because we’re paying more for PPE. They’re higher because we’ve kept all of our own team members whole. Whether you were furloughed to go home, whether you're working fewer shifts than were normally scheduled, we're paying you for your scheduled shifts," Skogsbergh said.

However, Skogsbergh says AdvocateAurora remains very strong financially. The firm still has 28,000 employees in southeastern Wisconsin, making it the largest private employer in the state. Skogsbergh says from now into June, his firm will be bringing more employees off of furlough pay and back into their clinics and other health care sites.  

To reassure employees and patients it's OK for them to come in, Skogsbergh says AdvocateAurora has created a "Safe Care Promise.”

"All of our patients, team members, providers, [and] guests are going to be screened prior to entering our sites of care. Masking is going to be for everyone. They're going to be provided masks," Skogsbergh said. "We know social distancing works. All of our waiting areas have been newly designed to accommodate appropriate social distancing. We'll have staggered appointment times that are gonna reduce traffic and minimize contact."

AdvocateAurora isn't the only health care entity affected by the economic downturn. For example, the Medical College of Wisconsin has 700 employees on furlough through the end of July, including at its Milwaukee, Green Bay and central Wisconsin campuses.

In a written statement, the college said it's made some "anguishing decisions to ensure long-term viability."

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