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State Offers $10M to Maine Hospitals, Amid $250M+ Monthly Deficit

Houlton Regional Hospital in rural Aroostook County had to announce pay cuts between 2% and 10% for high- and mid-level salaried employees last week, and one furlough day a month for hourly workers. (Houlton Regional Hospital)
Houlton Regional Hospital in rural Aroostook County had to announce pay cuts between 2% and 10% for high- and mid-level salaried employees last week, and one furlough day a month for hourly workers. (Houlton Regional Hospital)
April 8, 2020

AUGUSTA, Maine -- Gov. Janet Mills has announced $10 million in state funding to help Maine hospitals struggling financially in the COVID-19 outbreak. Hospital officials say it's welcome -- but a drop in the bucket.

At a Tuesday news conference, Mills said the supplemental financing is from the Maine Department of Health and Human Services. Maine Hospital Association president Steven Michaud applauded the governor for coming up with money quickly, but said that as more people delay medical visits and procedures, revenues are plummeting, especially in rural areas.

"Just because of the decline in patient activity, we're probably losing about $250 million to $300 million a month," he said, "so the $10 million is obviously a fraction of that."

Michaud said he hopes the federal government, and particularly Medicare, will provide significant funding to hospitals beyond the stimulus package, for which hospitals with fewer than 500 employees can qualify. Still, he said, Maine hospitals are facing a more than 60% decline in profits and, if the relief doesn't come soon enough, he described dire consequences.

"We have two" -- Penobscot Valley Hospital and Calais Regional Hospital -- "that are in bankruptcy right now," he said. "If you don't get them federal money -- which is coming -- but if they didn't get federal money soon, no, they would absolutely close within months."

Shawn Anderson, director of operations and incoming chief executive of
"The hundreds of people that I spoke with ultimately said 'thank you.' Even our lowest-paid employees, many of them, said, 'You only need one day a month from me? If you need more from me, please let me know.' Those are the very things that bring a tear to your eye," Anderson said.

He told staff to expect these cuts for the next six months unless more money comes their way.

Mills' announcement is online at
maine.gov.

Laura Rosbrow-Telem, Public News Service - ME