FILE - Tom Demmer, Illinois

In this May 8, 2019 photo, Rep. Tom Demmer, R-Dixon, speaks to reporters in Springfield.

An Illinois lawmaker has raised concerns about the financial stability of hospitals in the state in the age of COVID-19.

State Rep. Tom Demmer, R-Dixon, also works as Director of Innovation & Strategy at KSB Hospital, a not-for-profit community hospital with locations in Lee and Ogle Counties in northern Illinois. He said workforce reductions have been an unfortunate trend in the industry.

“Virtually every hospital in our area has done layoffs because they've had such a low number of people using services,” Demmer said. “There's a real significant impact there.”

The financial picture at many facilities has been darkened by Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s ban on what he deemed elective surgeries. That prohibition recently was lifted and hospitals can again begin to schedule those procedures with new protocols in effect. Demmer says turning around the financial health of hospitals only deals with part of the fallout.

“We've seen some really troubling articles across the country around how people are not getting the medical care that they should get because they're scared of the situation,” Demmer said. “Something that was a relatively minor problem got delayed and it becomes a more serious problem.”

He said the normal, day-to-day business of health care institutions have been significantly disrupted by COVID-19 and the restrictions that were in place.

“Some of the screenings and diagnostics, like colonoscopies and mammograms, these kinds of things help us catch conditions early before they become a bigger problem,” Demmer said. “I'm concerned we might see more serious incidents of some of these preventable health situations because care was delayed.”

At least nine small hospitals already have closed across the country in 2020. Demmer said the recent financial pressures on rural health care delivery networks only make worse problems that were introduced by the Affordable Care Act.

“There's been study after study showing the vulnerable state that a lot of hospitals in rural areas have faced, lacking some of the big economies of scale that some of the bigger institutions have,” Demmer said. “That's one of the reasons you've seen a lot of mergers and acquisitions.”

According to a recent report by the Chartis Center for Rural Health, almost half of small, rural hospitals in America already were operating at a loss before the COVID-19 crisis began.

The Center Square Correspondent

A radio veteran with nearly twenty years of experience, Scot Bertram is the General Manager of Radio Free Hillsdale 101.7 FM, the student radio station at Hillsdale College. Bertram is also the co-host of "Political Beats" for National Review Online.