Tennessee has used up the remainder of a $10 million fund created to bolster small hospitals facing financial struggles during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Gov. Bill Lee announced the final round of Small and Rural Hospital Readiness Grants recipients in a press release Tuesday morning.
“Our small and rural hospitals play a critical role in their communities, providing both necessary care to patients and good-paying jobs to residents, and we’re proud to support these hospitals through such unprecedented times,” Lee said.
The state has awarded grants of up to $500,000 to 29 hospitals in 28 counties who have lost revenue this spring, while elective surgeries were halted to save ventilators and personal protective gear for COVID-19 treatment.
Non-emergency procedures have since resumed. But a Tennessee Hospital Association analysis found that the coronavirus cost hospitals $1 billion in income in just the first month of the ban. That’s in addition to added expenses for rising PPE prices during the pandemic.
The recipient hospitals are located in rural counties that saw fewer cases of the coronavirus than the state’s major metropolitan areas (with the exception of Erlanger Bledsoe Hospital in Bledsoe County, where a prison outbreak has made the area one of the most concentrated coronavirus hotspots in the country).
But in a state where 11 small, rural facilities have shuttered in recent years, Lee said ongoing support will be necessary.
“We’ll continue to work with hospitals across our state and the federal government,” he said, “to ensure hospitals have the resources they need to maintain operations and serve their communities well.”