Neal announces $8.7M in COVID-19 relief funds for Holyoke Medical Center

  • U.S. Rep. Richard Neal, D-Springfield, speaks to about 30 health care workers outside Holyoke Medical Center on Saturday, July 25, 2020. During the visit Neal, chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, announced $8.7 million in federal COVID-19 relief funds to the hospital from the Department of Health and Human Services. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Spiros Hatiras, right, President and CEO of Holyoke Medical Center and Valley Health Systems, introduces U.S. Rep. Richard Neal, D-Springfield, to some of the staff at the hospital on Saturday, July 25, 2020. During the visit Neal, chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, announced $8.7 million in federal COVID-19 relief funds to the hospital from the Department of Health and Human Services. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Spiros Hatiras, right, president and CEO of Holyoke Medical Center and Valley Health Systems, takes a question from a health care worker after U.S. Rep. Richard Neal, left, announced $8.7 million in federal COVID-19 relief funds to the hospital during a visit on Saturday. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • U.S. Rep. Richard Neal, left, D-Springfield, and Spiros Hatiras, President and CEO of Holyoke Medical Center and Valley Health Systems, speak to health care workers outside the hospital on Saturday, July 25, 2020. During the visit Neal, chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, announced $8.7 million in federal COVID-19 relief funds to the hospital from the Department of Health and Human Services. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Spiros Hatiras, right, President and CEO of Holyoke Medical Center and Valley Health Systems, welcomes U.S. Rep. Richard Neal, D-Springfield, to the hospital on Saturday, July 25, 2020. During the visit Neal, chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, announced $8.7 million in federal COVID-19 relief funds to the hospital from the Department of Health and Human Services. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Holyoke VNA Hospice Life Care Director Maureen Groden asks a question of U.S. Rep. Richard Neal. D-Springfield, during his visit to Holyoke Medical Center on Saturday, July 25, 2020. During the visit Neal, chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, announced $8.7 million in federal COVID-19 relief funds to the hospital. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • U.S. Rep. Richard Neal, left, and Mateusz Marcinowski of Easthampton greet each other with an elbow bump as Marcinowski, a clinician at River Valley Counseling Center, approached to ask Neal a question. Neal was on a visit to Holyoke Medical Center on Saturday, July 25, 2020, to announce federal COVID-19 relief funds to the hospital. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • U.S. Rep. Richard Neal, D-Springfield, speaks to about 30 health care workers outside Holyoke Medical Center on Saturday, July 25, 2020. During the visit Neal, chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, announced $8.7 million in federal COVID-19 relief funds to the hospital from the Department of Health and Human Services. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Spiros Hatiras, President and CEO of Holyoke Medical Center and Valley Health Systems, speaks to a gathering of health care workers outside the hospital during a visit by U.S. Rep. Richard Neal on Saturday, July 25, 2020. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Spiros Hatiras, right, President and CEO of Holyoke Medical Center and Valley Health Systems, welcomes U.S. Rep. Richard Neal, D-Springfield, to the hospital on Saturday, July 25, 2020. During the visit Neal, chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, announced $8.7 million in federal COVID-19 relief funds to the hospital from the Department of Health and Human Services. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

Staff Writer
Published: 7/26/2020 6:52:18 PM

HOLYOKE — Standing outside of Holyoke Medical Center on Saturday morning, U.S. Rep. Richard Neal announced $8.7 million in federal COVID-19 relief funds to the hospital that officials say will help secure valuable resources to continue fighting the pandemic.

“That $8.7 million will bring back people that we still have out furloughed, it will buy us additional PPE (and) it will get us ready should there be some additional outbreak in the fall,” said Spiros Hatiras, president & CEO of Holyoke Medical Center & Valley Health Systems as he stood next to Neal. “I know that Chairman Neal will advocate for us, for any more additional funding as this pandemic unfolds.”

The money is part of $10 billion that is being distributed from the federal Department of Health and Human Services’ Provider Relief Fund in a second round of funding specifically aimed at assisting “high impact” hospitals that are designated as such by meeting a certain threshold of COVID-19 inpatient admissions. The CARES Act, Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act allocated $175 billion in relief funds to health care providers, according to HHS. Holyoke Medical Center did receive $2.9 million in CARES Act funding in April.

After briefly speaking to a crowd of health care workers outside of the hospital’s main entrance, Neal told reporters and others that Holyoke Medical Center didn’t qualify for an earlier round of “high impact” relief funding because it did not meet the “technical threshold” of 100 or more COVID-19 inpatient admissions between January 1 and April 10. 

Neal said he thought United States Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar was “too rigid in his interpretation of the formula,” and asked him to take into consideration for the second round of targeted funding that Holyoke Medical Center in April began housing over 40 veterans from the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home, which underwent a devastating COVID-19 outbreak.

Neal, who is chairman of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee that oversees HHS, said he had the department’s deputy secretary get on a phone call with Hatiras and other hospitals, so Hatiras could “make the argument for Holyoke Hospital, and he did it.”

“He pointed out that beyond the formula, there were these individuals from the Soldiers’ Home that had to be treated,” Neal said of Hatiras.

According to HHS, this second round of funding was eligible to hospitals with over 161 COVID-19 admissions between January 1 and June 10, 2020, or those that experienced a disproportionate intensity of coronavirus admissions; hospitals will be paid $50,000 for each eligible admission. Cooley Dickinson Hospital in Northampton also received $5.5 million in the second round of funding.

Hatiras said Holyoke Medical Center has experienced financial and revenue losses during the pandemic, so a lot of the relief money went to cover those losses and expenditures the hospital had already accumulated. He said the extra funds “gives us more comfort” to bring back more workers that have been furloughed; nearly 300 workers were laid off, though he said the hospital has brought “most” of them back.

“To the extent that there’s money that’s still available after we’ve covered those losses, we plan to shore up our institution for the fall,” Hatiras said. 

While Neal also briefly discussed the Paycheck Protection Program, he said the HEROES Act, a second stimulus package passed by the House in May but still being debated in the Senate, is “likely to pass in some version.” He also said that by the end of next week, “there’s likely to be a passage of legislative language in a House bill that will allow the Soldiers’ Home some additional relief as well.”

Mateusz Marcinowski, a licensed mental health counselor (LMHC) with River Valley Counseling Center who is from Easthampton, was one of the health care workers to show up at the event on Saturday who spoke with Neal. He said that he talked with the congressman about how he is sometimes cut off from patients with whom he has a “positive therapeutic relationship” when they turn 65 as his certification does not allow him to work with people on a Medicare-only plan. 

“I told the Congressman to work on that,” Marcinowski said. “He was very receptive and understood what the issue was.”

Michael Connors can be reached at mconnors@gazettenet.com. 


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