In its most recent update, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) announced that world growth is forecast to fall to its lowest level since World War II. And with the US being one of the worst hit, the hospital business, an integral part of the medical marketplace, and often regarded as recession proof is beginning to feel the heat.
Despite the fact that hospitals aren’t hit the way the way the automotive sector or the retail has been, and that people will continue to fall sick irrespective of the economy, it seems that the number of people seeking medical care and the profitability of hospitals don’t walk hand-in-hand.
Growth stunted & patients decreasing
A recent report by the American Hospital Association (AHA) finds that the sputtering economy has already led to 45% of hospitals to postpone forthcoming capital projects, with about 13% being forced to completely stall any expansion projects already underway. The AHA report included 639 hospitals in the study.
Further, experts believe that even though people continue to fall sick they’re postponing, most treatments if not all, which can be classified as elective. The credit for the prevailing scenario goes to all the layoffs and the slowing economy. As per the Bureau of Labor Statistics the month of December saw some of the worst layoff figures, as there were 2,275 mass layoff actions, involving 226,117 workers.
What seems worse is that aside from foregoing elective treatments, patients seem to be avoiding essential drugs, with many actually abusing prescription drugs, such as narcotic painkillers , sedatives and tranquilizers and stimulants.
As a consequence, hospitals are reeling under delayed hospital equipment and supply purchases, declining patient visits, reduced staff with no fresh hiring, unpaid medical bills, in addition to ceasing any construction projects. The AHA survey, released in November last year found that patient visits were static or had decreased during the third quarter of 2008, and the cases of unpaid medical bills for hospitals registered a hike of 8%.
The government’s role in uplifting the spirit of hospitals is being thought to be instrumental as Medicare and Medicaid account for about half of the hospital business industry.