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UW doctors talk budgeting, COVID-19 woes at January town hall

UW Med Town Hall 1/23

At the Jan. 13 UW Medicine town hall, medical leaders from across UW Medicine facilities met to discuss the current state of the organization. From COVID-19, vaccinations, and the financial state of UW Medicine, the hourlong town hall covered a wide variety of pressing issues.

Since the first round of COVID-19 vaccinations became available to adults in the last weeks of 2020, multiple booster doses have been developed and released to the public in order to better protect people against the virus. To be considered fully up-to-date on vaccinations, it is necessary to have received all recommended primary and booster vaccine doses.

Dr. John Lynch is an associate professor of allergy and infectious disease in the UW School of Medicine. He also serves as the medical director of Harborview’s infection control, antibiotic stewardship, and employee health programs. 

“The real benefit of COVID vaccines is a primary series plus the booster,” Lynch said. “It’s going to protect you against hospitalization, severe disease, and death, and everyone around you from infection.”

Looking toward the end of the current fiscal year, interim CEO of UW Medicine, as well as interim executive vice president for medical affairs and dean of students at the UW School of Medicine, Timothy Dellit gave a frank assessment of where the organization currently stands financially.

As it stands, through the end of November 2022, UW Medicine has lost approximately $136 million. Dellit explained that the hospital system was designed as a safety net, and that perhaps the most pressing issue facing the hospital system is a lack of post-acute care facilities in the area that can accommodate patients who need more time to recuperate after surgery. 

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“When I think of why we are in this state, I would say that all health care systems across the country are facing many of the same challenges,” Dellit said. “I think there are some that are unique to UW Medicine simply because of our role within our state and our region, particularly as a safety net organization, caring for the most vulnerable.”

Despite this, Dellit was careful to point out that the picture is not quite as bleak as the numbers paint it to be. A new federal reimbursement system for Medicaid is set to provide the medical complex with around $90 million annually starting this year, and an emergency fund from the Federal Emergency Management Agency will also lower the debt by over $100 million.

“We believe by the end of this fiscal year, so by June, we should receive, at Harborview, roughly $91 million [and] at UW [Medical Center], roughly $77 million,” Dellit said.

Reach News Editor Luke Amrine at Twitter: @amrine_luke

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