Larry Antonucci (Photo: Special to The News-Press)
Without a doubt, the past few months have been among the most challenging our community, health system and country have ever experienced.
Like nearly every health system across the country, Lee Health has faced unprecedented challenges due to the coronavirus pandemic. We have cared for more than 6,400 COVID-19 patients in our hospitals and emergency rooms, grappled with supply chain interruptions and made countless operational changes to keep our staff and patients safe.
Early on, we recognized that there would be significant financial pressures, so we took proactive measures to preserve our resources and position ourselves for recovery. We made cost-saving labor reductions without layoffs, suspended capital improvement projects, temporarily froze hiring and made permanent reductions in contracted services.
We are proud that Lee Health weathered this storm without having to resort to involuntary layoffs. We did this by working collaboratively with our team members to streamline operations to reflect volumes and by deploying innovative labor cost control strategies, including our highly successful Voluntary Exit Program (VEP).
Through these actions, we were able to reduce our losses. With the fiscal year ending later this month, we project an annual operating loss of $20 million, which while substantial, is much lower than our original forecasts.
Although COVID-19 has created significant operational and financial challenges and tested our team like never before, our focus on advancing our mission and vision has never wavered.
As a leadership team, we continue to respond to our current environment while making strategic changes that help us deliver the best care for every patient we serve — both today and in the future. We’ve had to make hard decisions about how we operate. Senior leaders have taken pay reductions, and there will be no merit-based pay increases this year. We’ve tightened our belts and are managing to do more with less. We’ve made operational changes to align our employees better and improve coordination between our inpatient, outpatient and virtual patient access points.
Oct. 1 started a new fiscal year for Lee Health, and to us, it’s a year of confidence and hope. We have developed a solid plan for financial recovery over the next twelve months, and we have the right team to lead us to a sustainable future.
Lee Health is a strong, stable health system, and we will continue to be a trusted partner in delivering excellent care for our patients and communities. We will continue to improve access, convenience, quality and the experience we provide our patients.
We are proud of the progress we’ve made, and we are deeply grateful for our communities’ support and the trust our patients, their loved ones and our employees place in us — and we are committed to continuing to earn that trust through wise stewardship, genuine partnership and responsible transparency.
Dr. Larry Antonucci is the President and CEO of Lee Health.
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