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published on February 26, 2021 - 1:43 PM
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Kaweah Delta Medical Center in Visalia has reported millions of dollars in lower revenue in the past year due to Covid-19.

The big medical center has been unable to perform many typical surgical procedures it counts on to make payroll and pay bills.

It’s not just typical surgeries that are down this past year.

It may be surprising that all of those months that couples were locked up at home with not much of a social calendar, there was no big baby boom as a result. In fact, it was the opposite — a baby bust.

Figures from around the world and across the U.S. tell the same story.

The Covid quarantine has led to a decline of about 20% in the number of births at Kaweah Delta this past year compared to 2019. As of December 2020, the hospital reported 342 deliveries compared to 415 in December 2019 — the same trend seen every month in the past year.

If births are down, deaths — unfortunately —  are up. The hospital keeps track of hospice days, and it’s up around 25%.

They see it all at this medical center. Whether you are coming or going, more are leaving and fewer are arriving.

Factors affecting decisions not to have a baby in these times may include economic uncertainty, social stress and, of course, anxieties about the virus. Then there is the long-term trends that result in fewer new babies. California’s population is getting older and couples are having fewer children. The number of births here has been heading south for a long time.

State figures show Tulare County births numbered 8,537 in 2007. In 2020 with a higher population, births were 7,315. Similarly in 1990, California saw 611,000 births. By 2020 it was around 457,000.

But the pandemic seems to have accelerated the trend.

Several states that keep track of births in near-real time as well as some hospital systems contacted by TV news outlet NBCLX recorded significant drops in December 2020 birthrates compared to the same period from one year earlier. That includes Florida (down 8%); Ohio (down 7%); and Arizona (down 5%).

California, Arizona, Hawaii and Ohio are reporting the number of babies born in 2020 is down a total of more than 50,000 from 2019, as reported by the Brookings Institution. 

Overall Kaweah Delta is welcoming fewer patents with Covid so it can get back to taking care of other ailments from diabetes to heart disease. Covid cases are down to 59 this week from a high of more than 150 in January.

This week, CEO Gary Herbst noted the district may soon reopen the Lifestyle Center gym.

“We’re seeing some bright spots and we hope you’ll LIKE & SHARE the good news. In this video, you’ll hear about the significant decline in the number of COVID-19 patients that we’re caring for TODAY, along with the increase in the number of available beds, PPE, ventilators, and even our ability to turn floors that were being used as surge overflow areas back to their regular uses (that includes our Neonatal Intensive Care Unit and our Endoscopy Unit)”

If there is optimism at the hospital that we may return to more normal times, it may rub off on the general populace. Having a child is an inherently optimistic act. Couples in the U.S. seem to be doing less and less of it.

“Those that are just thinking about becoming pregnant have a lot of concerns as well about how COVID could affect their pregnancy,” Dr. Edward Miller, the maternal-fetal medicine director at University of Louisville Health in Kentucky, noted in a report. “We have a lot of patients with lost insurance, lost access to health care, so we’re having a lot more conversations with our non-pregnant populations about effective birth control measures.”

Expectant and new mothers described added stress after they became pregnant as Covid was forcing shutdowns and causing disruptions.

The Kaweah Delta board heard recently that net patient revenue was less than January’s budget expectation by $2.1 million due to lower surgical, cath lab and overall outpatient volumes. Also, other operating revenue was $1.1 million lower than it had budgeted as Covid continues to impact these revenue-generating areas that are not open or are experiencing lower‐than‐budgeted volumes.

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