Olympic Medical Center has received a consistent supply of COVID-19 vaccine and continues to help public health workers get shots into arms, a hospital official said.
Jennifer Burkhardt, OMC’s chief human resources officer and general counsel, said the Port Angeles hospital had 3,570 doses of Pfizer vaccine in its ultra low-temperature freezer as of Wednesday and expected to receive another 1,000 doses later in the day.
“We’ve been donating all of our excess vaccines to Clallam County for the community,” Burkhardt said in a virtual forum hosted by Colleen McAleer, Clallam County Economic Development Council director.
After vaccinating its own staff, OMC has been helping Clallam County provide shots to thousands of residents who are 65 and older at mass vaccinations events.
“Right now, we’re working through tier 1A and tier 1B,” Burkhardt said, referring to the state system.
“Beginning in March, the hope is that we will start vaccinating those in Tier 1B-2, and those are individuals who are age 50 and older and in certain high-risk professions, including teachers, child care, public transit, jail employees, grocery stores, law enforcement and others.
“So we’re really excited to move into that next phase of the vaccination with the hope that we will further reopen our county, and that will continue to help us from the economic standpoint,” she added.
OMC is Clallam County’s largest employer with about 1,600 employees.
The public hospital district weathered “devastating” financial challenges from COVID-19 and managed to add 31 providers, Burkhardt said.
“When we closed the books for 2020, the impact was really staggering,” Burkhardt said.
“Our less revenue for the year was in the neighborhood of $4.9 million, and the operating income loss was about $3 million. We are still in the process of looking at what the offset will be for provider relief funds, so some of that we do expect to be offset.”
OMC spent about $1.7 million more on personal protective equipment (PPE) last year than in previous years.
“We were able to dig in early on and begin amassing supplies of PPE,” Burkhardt said.
“At most junctures, we’ve had at least 90 days of supply on hand so that our staff felt very secure that we had sufficient PPE to be able to care for those in our health care facilities.”
Early in the pandemic, OMC spent about $380,000 on COVID-related capital and $853,000 on non-PPE, non-capital items like thermometers and syringes.
OMC stocked on ventilators and increased its bed capacity to be ready for a potential surge, Burkhardt said.
“We had drive-through testing available, and we continue to do that. We also provide pre-procedural testing for those who are going into the hospital for surgeries and so forth, and that’s been a big expense.”
The total cost of COVID-19 testing at OMC last year was about $2.6 million, Burkhardt said.
“By far the biggest expenditure for us has been staffing,” Burkhardt added.
Last spring, Gov. Jay Inslee instituted a stay-home order that included a pause on elective surgeries. That order has been lifted.
“One of the big themes that we have tried to urge the community throughout the pandemic is to continue to seek care, because we have seen those who are opting not to seek health care during the pandemic,” Burkhardt said.
“That’s resulted in our emergency department seeing about an 18 percent drop year-over-year in patients coming through the ED, and our surgeries were down about 20 percent for the year in 2020.
“Some of that was related to the governor’s order,” she added.
“There was a time when we were unable to do any non-urgent surgeries at all.”
Despite the challenges of the pandemic, Burkhardt said OMC remains financially stable.
“We have always been managed very conservatively, and that has helped us to maintain a really solid base throughout the pandemic,” Burkhardt said.
The public hospital district added 31 physicians and advanced practice clinicians during the past year, Burkhardt said.
“We’ve been able to recruit, which is really somewhat unique in this environment,” she added.
Opposed to regional plan
Meanwhile, OMC Commissioner John Nutter announced the hospital board would endorse a letter drafted by Jefferson County Commissioner Kate Dean opposing a state plan to regionalize the public health system.
The letter was co-signed by Clallam County commissioners on Tuesday and endorsed by several other boards and councils in Clallam and Jefferson counties.
“We’re always better being cohesive across the North Peninsula,” Clallam County Commissioner Randy Johnson said after Burkhardt’s remarks.
During a question-and-answer session, Burkhardt was asked whether OMC could use its size and technological expertise to help streamline the public health department’s process for vaccination sign-ups.
“I definitely think that’s an excellent suggestion,” Burkhardt told Kaj Ahlburg.
“We’ve been providing resources to the county on a very consistent level.
“With that suggestion, I will reach out and ask whether or not there is further support that we can provide in terms of the sign-up process,” she added.
“Because right now, the spots fill up extremely fast.”
“One of the big efforts that we made for our community was stepping up to provide COVID testing,” Burkhardt said.