CASPER — Wyoming’s smallest hospitals received tens of millions of dollars in federal loan money in April and May, funds that helped keep the facilities afloat as the effects of the pandemic ravaged hospitals’ coffers.
In the spring, Congress passed the CARES Act, which included the Payment Protection Program. The stimulus program granted loans to businesses that promised not to layoff employees, loans that would become grants — and wouldn’t need to be paid back — if the businesses kept their employees. Thousands of Wyoming businesses applied for the loans, and more than 1,600 secured loans larger than $150,000.
Providers across the state, from dentists to urologists and surgical centers to radiology clinics, received loans from the PPP, as did a vast array of other businesses, including the oil and gas industry, the Diocese of Cheyenne and restaurants, like Casper’s FireRock steakhouse.
Wyoming hospitals received some of the largest loans here. Sixteen facilities, many the smallest hospitals in the state, collectively received between $28 million and $64 million as part of the program. Twelve of the 16 are critical-access hospitals, meaning they’re small, rural facilities that are geographically isolated. The PPP funds supplemented tens of millions of dollars distributed to hospitals in the spring as part of another provision of the CARES Act.
Hospitals were battered by the pandemic. To preserve beds, staff and equipment, facilities across the state and nation suspended elective procedures — which are lucrative, money-making parts of hospitals’ business models. On top of that, trips to emergency rooms and clinics plummeted. Across Wyoming, hospitals lost millions; Eric Boley, the head of the state hospital association, told the Star-Tribune in May that facilities were down $60 million in May alone.
Cheyenne Regional, which did not receive PPP money but did receive other stimulus funds, lost $27 million in April. Campbell County Health’s volume dropped 50%. Wyoming Medical Center has not said how much it lost, but a spokeswoman did say that it received $6 million in stimulus funds, and “the actual losses incurred since March still far exceed this initial payment and we continue to look for economic relief in other areas.”
A spokeswoman for Cheyenne Regional echoed that sentiment.
“The stimulus funding we did receive was certainly beneficial and equated to about one month of lost revenue,” spokeswoman Kathryn Baker said. “So while beneficial, it only covered a fraction of our lost revenue.”
Of the facilities that received PPP funds, Afton’s North Lincoln County Hospital District and Powell Valley Health Care both secured between $5 million and $10 million in aid, federal data shows. Both facilities also received other stimulus money totaling $10 million. Both are critical-access facilities.
Johnson County Hospital District in Buffalo, the memorial hospitals in Carbon and Converse counties, and the hospital districts in north Big Horn and south Lincoln counties each received between $2 million in $5 million. Each of those five facilities also received several million in other stimulus funding; Converse received $5.8 million, South Lincoln received $3.8 million and the other three received a bit more than $4 million. All five are also critical-access hospitals.
Wind River Community Health also received between $2 million and $4 million, plus a comparably tiny $9,400 in other stimulus funds. The Community Health Center of Central Wyoming, which is based in Casper but has locations elsewhere in the state, was paid between $1 million and $2 million in PPP funding, plus $700,000 in other stimulus payments.
Four other hospitals also received between $1 million and $2 million: Crook County Medical Services Districts, Hot Springs Hospital District, Casper’s forprofit Summit Medical Center and Weston County Hospital District. All four each received other stimulus money; Summit received the least from that pot, $1.2 million, while the others received between $3.6 million and $4.1 million. Of those, only Summit isn’t a critical-access facility.
The final three hospitals — Aspen Mountain Medical Center and the Niobrara and South Big Horn County hospital districts, all received between $350,000 under the Payroll Protection Program. The latter two facilities each received roughly $3.5 million.