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March 26, 2021

Health Law Weekly

OIG: Hospitals Facing Significant Challenges to Delivering Patient Care During Pandemic

  • March 26, 2021

In a survey conducted by the Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General (OIG), hospitals reported that operating in “survival mode” for an extended period of time during the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated longstanding challenges in health care delivery, access, and health outcomes.

OIG surveyed 320 hospitals nationwide during February 22–26, 2021 for their perspectives on health care delivery during the pandemic.

Surveyed hospitals described difficulty balancing the complex and resource-intensive care needed for COVID-19 patients with efforts to resume routine hospital care, OIG said.

Hospitals reported that increased hours and responsibilities, along with other stressors caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, resulted in staff being exhausted, mentally fatigued, and sometimes experiencing possible post-traumatic stress disorder, with several hospitals reporting that witnessing COVID-19-related deaths especially weighed on staff mental health.

According to the survey, hospitals also experienced financial instability because of increased expenses associated with responding to a pandemic and lower revenues from decreased use of other hospital services. Patients delaying or forgoing routine health care also led to worsening of conditions, OIG noted.

Rural hospitals reported particular difficulty in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, noting it had exacerbated longstanding challenges in staffing, limited capacity, and finances.

Although hospitals viewed their vaccination efforts as a positive step toward pandemic recovery, several noted that these efforts are further stretching limited clinical staff and straining hospital finances, OIG said.

The report is, Hospitals Reported That the COVID-19 Pandemic Has Significantly Strained Health Care Delivery (OEI-09-21-00140).