Springfield healthcare providers tap federal pandemic loan program to save jobs, executives say

Cassandra Miller working in the family clinic at The Rocking Horse Center Tuesday.  BILL LACKEY/STAFF
Cassandra Miller working in the family clinic at The Rocking Horse Center Tuesday. BILL LACKEY/STAFF

Credit: Bill Lackey

Credit: Bill Lackey

Healthcare facilities in the area were among those able to take advantage of a federal program designed to help small businesses retain employees amid the coronavirus pandemic.

They were on a list of over 1,000 employers in Clark and Champaign counties that were approved for loans through the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) established by the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA).

The goal of the federal loan program, which rolled out in April, was to help businesses with 500 or less employees retain staffing levels as the pandemic and measures taken to combat it had an immediate economic impact.

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Those that participated locally reported in total that those loans helped keep over 15,000 workers employed amid the pandemic, according to data the SBA made public this month.

The loans are designed to be forgiven to the extent that businesses can show that they were able to stay open, if deemed essential, and retain their workers as a result.

For some, the loans allowed them to call back previously laid off workers. That was the case for the Ohio Valley Surgical Hospital in Springfield, which had to temporarily close in March due to state guidelines regarding elective procedures.

The hospital applied for a loan in the $2 million to $5 million range and was able to bring back 235 employees as a result.

It was one of a number of health care providers in the area to receive PPP loans. Others included the Rocking Horse Community Health Center in Springfield and those that offered mental health services as well as physician practices and dental offices.

The state of Ohio called for the temporary suspension of elective procedures in March as part of an effort to preserve personal protective equipment. A majority of Ohio Valley’s patient services fell into that category and as a result the physician-owned hospital had to furlough most of its staff.

Ohio Valley applied for a PPP loan in April that closed in May. It allowed the hospital to retain full-time employees who were previously furloughed, said Kevin Banion, its chief financial officer.

He said a large portion of the loan was used to keep employees on the payroll as the hospital tweaked its operations in preparation for the reopening of the hospital.

The state has since allowed elective surgeries and overnight procedures to resume with the former starting in early May and the latter earlier in June.

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As of last month, Ohio Valley was operating at about 80% in terms of the number of surgeries scheduled. That is based on the average number of surgeries conducted per month before the closure.

Banion said the loan allowed them to keep their employees leading up to the hospital’s reopening and prevented the lost of talent. He said the loan was consistent to two and a half months of payroll.

Other healthcare providers used the loans to retain employees as they stayed open but had to tweak their services as a result of the pandemic.

The entity that runs the Rocking Horse Community Health Center applied for a loan of $1.9 million. It was used to retain a total of 172 employees at its four facilities, with all but one being located in Clark County.

Rocking Horse applied for the loan in April in an effort to keep its employees amid the pandemic. Prior to the loan, the health provider did not furlough or lay off any of its employees, said its Chief Financial Officer Shonda Wallace.

However, they saw a 50% reduction in patient visits during the first month of the pandemic. Rocking Horse has since added telehealth services. Wallace said they are still down about 25% to 30% in terms of patient volumes.