HCA told investors today that it plans to begin a “reboot phase” by the end of June.
The Nashville-based hospital chain — the largest in the country — gave its first quarterly earnings update since the COVID-19 pandemic began. Right now, emergency rooms are running at half capacity and outpatient surgeries are down 70%, company executives said.
HCA has 186 hospitals and hundreds of surgery centers. They’re concentrated in states like Tennessee, Texas and Florida, which indicate they plan to lift restrictions over the next few weeks.
“In many of our markets, the initial forecasts were sobering,” CEO Sam Hazen said of the expected number of beds needed to treat COVID-19 patients. “They have come in significantly less, so we have ample capacity. And we’ve learned a lot over this past five or six weeks.”
HCA has treated roughly 5,500 COVID patients. Hazen said no one has been laid off, but 80,000 employees who are out of work are receiving reduced pay. Some 11,000 non-clinical employees, mainly at the corporate offices in Nashville, took pay cuts ranging from 10% to 30%.
Hazen said some surgeons are eager to get to their backlogs of joint replacements and bariatric procedures. But others, he said, are concerned about the safety of patients and their own health.
It’s unclear whether all of the patients with cancelled surgeries will simply reschedule. HCA executives say it may take time to rebuild trust.
“We think patient confidence is very important,” Hazen said. “It’s incumbent on upon all health systems to create that reassurance that patients can come to a health system — as they did just two months ago — with confidence and that their safety can be protected.”