FILE - Virus Outbreak Iowa

Taylor Collins walks through the Iowa Capitol building rotunda, Tuesday, May 19, 2020, in Des Moines, Iowa. 

(The Center Square) – With loss projections for the state of Iowa’s 118 hospitals in the wake of COVID-19 as high as $2 billion, Kirk Norris has resigned himself to a harsh reality.

“My answer is some hospitals won't survive,” said Norris, president and CEO of the Iowa Hospital Association. “One study said as many as 17 hospitals are in peril. What our study shows is that in a best-case scenario we only get 90 percent back of what we had before any of this pandemic hit.”

Much of the loss is expected to come in rural areas that many observers worry can least afford to take the hit.

“It kind of seems like the smaller you are the more trouble you’re in,” Norris added. “We’ve long been advocating for a new model.”

As it is, Norris said projections show the losses could range anywhere from $384 million to $2 billion, in either case, crippling news for tapped out hospitals already forced to operate on the margins.

“Congress has done some things to advance money to hospitals and they need to make that permanent,” Norris added. “If we pass the rural hospital model we’re proposing, I think you’ll start to see some things really move.”

During the months of March and April, the early days of the virus, Norris said nine of every 10 Iowa hospitals lost collective revenues of as high as $12 million a day.

Driving the losses was a need to have enough hospital beds to handle the uptick in coronavirus cases, a consideration that ultimately led Gov. Kim Reynolds to impose restrictions that prohibited hospitals from offering non-emergency surgeries and other types of procedures.

In all, Norris said local hospitals performed about half the number of surgeries they typically do over the months of March and April.

“You’ve got some people out there with a high desire to get something done,” Norris added. “The question is when it’ll happen as the impact of the virus continues to be felt.”