The CEO of Pullman Regional Hospital said Wednesday the hospital does not advocate the stoppage of COVID-19 testing so Whitman County can reopen businesses sooner.

During a Pullman Regional Hospital Board of Commissioners meeting, the board briefly discussed the possibility for Whitman County to get the state’s permission to reopen part of its economy sooner than other parts of the state.

That would require no new COVID-19 case for three weeks. As of Wednesday evening, the most recent COVID-19 case in Whitman County was reported April 22.

During a Pullman City Council meeting Tuesday, Councilor Al Sorensen advocated people stop getting tests to meet that three-week threshold.

Pullman Regional Hospital CEO Scott Adams said Wednesday the hospital does not advocate people stop testing.

He said for Whitman County to reopen its economy, the hospital must ensure it has enough beds, staff and personal protective equipment to manage a possible surge in COVID-19 cases.

To deal with the financial shortfall caused by the pandemic, the hospital set up a COVID-19 Fund so people can donate money to PRH.

The PRH Foundation this week has transferred $450,000 from the COVID-19 Fund to the hospital, and will transfer another $500,000 later this month. Rueben Mayes, chief development officer for the PRH Foundation, said the foundation continues to work toward raising $2 million in 2020.

CFO Steve Febus said the hospital projects a $7 million loss in revenue this year. He said at best, the hospital will be close to breaking even in its finances by the end of 2020. Febus also said the volume of surgeries has dropped 50 percent.

Febus said the hospital received about $1.1 million from the federal government’s CARES Act in April. He does not expect there to be any federal stimulus money available if there is a second surge in COVID-19 cases this year.

In regard to funding the hospital, the board discussed the possibility of expanding the hospital’s taxing district boundaries to help pay for bonds. It may discuss the matter at next month’s meeting.

Adams said the hospital is still working to establish a family residency program in partnership with Washington State University. He said the goal is for the first class of trainees to begin in 2022.

In other business, the hospital board Wednesday approved Adams’ request to reduce his compensation by 25 percent to $255,674 until July 3.

Megan Guido, PRH director of marketing, also said there has been a trend across Washington of people choosing not to get urgent surgeries or treat chronic health problems during the pandemic for fear of exposure to COVID-19.

Guido said the hospital is trying to get the message out that it is still a safe place to get health care.

Anthony Kuipers can be reached at akuipers@dnews.com.

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