Officials at Eastern Connecticut Health Network say they will use a new round of funding from the state to cover past acquisitions of monitoring equipment and medications, the expansion of Rockville General Hospital’s intensive care unit, and the network’s continued COVID-19 testing and vaccination efforts, among other expenses.
All together, ECHN-owned hospitals in Connecticut are expected to receive about $2.5 million as part of a broader $40 million relief package intended to reimburse hospitals for coronavirus-related costs incurred since the pandemic began.
According to Gov. Ned Lamont’s office, Manchester Memorial Hospital is on track to receive $793,187, while Rockville General Hospital in Vernon will collect $1,755,143.
Speaking Friday, ECHN CEO Deborah Weymouth said the hospitals will soon begin reporting their eligible costs to the state in order to access the funding, a process she expects will take several weeks.
ECHN will seek compensation for the expansion of the ICU at Rockville General in the spring of 2020, Weymouth said, as well as for the purchase of expensive experimental drugs that were much in demand last year before vaccines became available.
The network also hopes to recover at least some of the money used to pay for monitoring equipment, personal protective equipment, coronavirus testing, and vaccinations.
According to Weymouth, the difference in funding between Manchester Memorial and Rockville General stems from an agreement established by the Connecticut Hospital Association, under which small hospitals can receive higher reimbursement rates than larger ones.
“Smaller hospitals don’t have the resources to fall back on, in terms of the depth of their balance sheet,” she said. “The agreement recognizes the vulnerability of small hospitals and helps them retain their status in the community. They’re given more of a cushion.”
While the new payments should help get ECHN closer to its pre-pandemic footing, Weymouth said new variables, including the spread of even more contagious COVID-19 variants, make the near future difficult to predict.
“It’s a help and we’re appreciative, but who knows where things could go from here?” she asked. “There’s so many unknowns out there. The marathon of COVID-19 isn’t over.”
ECHN says it’s tested about 5,000 people for COVID-19 through its drive-thru testing clinic and vaccinated about 11,000 at sites in Manchester and Vernon.
The network recently canceled all first dose vaccination appointments scheduled through the state’s online Vaccine Administration Management System, citing lack of supply. Patients who received their first vaccination at Manchester Memorial or Rockville General hospitals and who have already scheduled appointments for their second shot still will be able to keep that appointment.
Weymouth said ECHN is also setting up what she called a “post-COVID hotline” for “long-haulers” — people weeks or even months out from a COVID-19 diagnosis who continue to experience symptoms such as fatigue, insomnia, and shortness of breath.
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