Ohio’s Hospice, COVID-19 and the CARES Act
“We had not planned on the CARES Act (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act) funding. It just showed up in our bank account,” states Ohio’s Hospice CEO Kent Anderson.
The amount in question? $7.2 million.
The challenge — and opportunity — for Ohio’s Hospice as a not-for-profit organization governed by a community-based Board of Directors drawn from each of the communities it serves was how to be a responsible steward of the funds entrusted to it and how to be fully transparent about how it administered those funds in the midst of a national healthcare emergency.
Adding to the challenge was the fact that the funds arrived without specifics on how recipients were to spend the money.
Like all healthcare providers, Ohio’s Hospice saw an immediate drop in revenues — more than $2 million — as the first wave of the pandemic rolled through Ohio in the spring of 2020. At the same time, expenses for items like personal protective equipment (PPE) were skyrocketing amidst unprecedented demand and severe supply chain disruptions.
Ohio’s Hospice immediately engaged its law firm and auditing firm to guide how the CARES Act funding was spent and tracked for reporting purposes. “We pledged this would remain an agenda item for the Finance Committee and the Board of Directors as a whole until such time as the government told us the disposition of these funds is complete,” Anderson explains.
Where did the money go? Much of it went to front-line staff.
Every front-line worker, from nurses and nurses’ aides at the bedside to housekeeping and culinary workers in the inpatient units, received up to $1,325 in “extra pay.” “It was the right thing to do,” Anderson says. “We didn’t want to create a pay category called hazardous pay. We just called it ‘extra pay.’”
That was just one of many ways Ohio’s Hospice put staff members first in responding to COVID-19.
“We did that to protect our patients, their families, our staff,” states Ohio’s Hospice President Amy Wagner. “If we were going to start losing staff to the pandemic, it would be difficult to keep serving patients, keep fulfilling our mission. So we chose to be very aggressive in handling this.”
“The money did what it was supposed to do,” observes Wagner. “It provided stability and security to an essential provider. That security allowed us some perspective in real-time decision-making. It allowed us to ask in the middle of a crisis: ‘What more can we do to meet community need, to support staff, to support patients and families?’”