By PAULA TRACY, InDepthNH.org
CANAAN – A rural community health center in need of “survival funding” will have to wait at least another week to find if it can receive COVID-19 relief to continue to serve 4,200.
Mascoma Community Health Center, which serves the medical, dental, mental, and pharmacy needs for residents of Dorchester, Canaan, Enfield, Grafton, and Orange is seeking help to keep its doors open.
The center – that sees patients regardless of health insurance based on ability to pay – is facing a net operating loss of $446,895 without more COVID-19 funding relief, according to documents received by the state.
The Legislative Advisory Board for the Governor’s Office for Emergency Relief and Recovery, which recommends such allocations, met Tuesday to discuss how to help. But both Republicans and Democrats agreed that more information is needed about the level of need, other options for funding and just how much it would need in monthly cash flow as the medical center also seeks deferment of loans and ways to restructure debt.
The Legislative Advisory Board plans to meet virtually at 10 a.m. on Oct. 13 about Mascoma and will also hear from the state’s school superintendents on their needs either on that date or on Oct. 27.
Details of the Mascoma financial picture and efforts to secure emergency money are here. https://www.goferr.nh.gov/sites/g/files/ehbemt366/files/inline-documents/sonh/20200929-covid-19-mchc.pdf.
Since the pandemic, the center has seen a 46 percent loss in medical revenue and a 44 percent loss in dental care revenue, plus a significant decline in fundraising compared to 2019 and has a net operating loss of $446,985.
Yet it is seeing more patients, going from 3,074 in 2019 to 4,155 patients in 2020.
Mascoma is working with the office of U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-NH, on a deferral of a federal $100,000 loan through next April but it is not yet confirmed.
The center received almost $190,000 in the federal paycheck protection program but it has monthly expenses of $138,000 and a current loss a month of $48,000. (Roughly 85 percent of the monthly expenses are in salaries.)
“We’ve got to find a way to save this place,” said state Sen. Lou D’Allesandro, D-Manchester. “Who else is going to serve them? It’s problematic.”
State Senate Minority Leader Chuck Morse, R-Salem, agreed that they will likely need some cash flow help on a consistent monthly basis through next year. He thought it might require some appropriation by the GOFERR board which recommends to the governor allocations from the CARES Act accounts.
Morse said there may be other ways the state could help, such as in chasing a new round of federal money, and in brokering a potential merger with Health First next year which he said could change the financial dynamics.
“We could help in other ways,” Morse said.
There were still some unanswered questions that would likely require only a week more so the advisory board agreed to hold off a vote on funding amounts until next Tuesday.
Michael Sampson, who represents Mascoma, did not speak on Tuesday’s call.
But the document submitted to the advisory board states “we believe that the time frame for recovery is between now and April 2021.”