Ebola hits Texas hospital in the pocketbook

Hazmat workers with Protect Environmental unload barrels in preparation for decontaminating an apartment at The Village Bend East apartment complex where a second health care worker who has tested positive for the Ebola virus resides on October 15, 2014 in Dallas, Texas.
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The Texas hospital that has been ground zero for a mini-outbreak of Ebola in the U.S. has seen steep drops in patients and revenue on the heels of the crisis.

And the corporate parent of the hospital, Texas Health Presbyterian in Dallas, admits it's "too early" to tell whether financial fallout from the Ebola outbreak will continue.

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Emergency room visits at Texas Health Presbyterian fell by 53.3 percent since Oct. 1 compared to the prior nine months, its parent, Texas Health Resources, said in a regulatory filing for bondholders reviewed by CNBC.

Those 2,336 fewer patients were the primary reason that revenue at the hospital also fell, by $8.1 million, or 25.6 percent, Texas Health Resources said in the filling.

Texas Health Presbyterian had been diverting ambulances that would have otherwise taken patients to its ER because of staffing issues associated with the three Ebola cases that were recently there.

But the Ebola effect wasn't limited to the ER.

Average daily patient occupancy at the hospital dropped 21 percent, from an average of 428 patients to 337 patients, according to that filling by the hospital's parent, which operates 24 other hospitals. Surgeries decreased 25 percent, or about 165 patients.

Despite the decrease, "management believes THR's insurance coverage is adequate to cover any contingent liabilities which may occur as a result of the Ebola infections that have occurred to date," the filing said. And Texas Health Resources, which has $3.3 billion on hand in cash reserves and investments, said it believes it has "sufficient liquidity to cover any losses that might exceed coverage limits."

While Texas Health Presbyterian on Monday resumed normal ambulance service to the hospital's ER, it's not clear if revenue and patient levels will rebound, or to what extent.

"It is too early to predict what, if any, material or significant financial impact this situation will have on Texas Health Resources as a whole," the hospital group said.

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The disclosures in the filing come after Moody's Investors Service revised its outlook on THR from positive to "developing" last week.

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The hospital, which accounts for 17 percent of Texas Health's overall revenue, has treated three Ebola patients since late September.

The first, Liberian national Thomas Eric Duncan, 42, was admitted to the hospital on Sept. 28, and died from the disease on Oct. 8. Duncan was the first person ever diagnosed with the deadly Ebola virus in the U.S.

Two Texas Health nurses, Amber Vinson and Nina Pham, became infected with Ebola while treating Duncan, and were diagnosed with the virus last week.

The nurses were initially being treated at that hospital, but Pham has since been transferred to the National Institutes of Health outside Washington, D.C. Vinson moved to Emory Hospital in Atlanta, which has successfully treated three other recent Ebola cases.

Vinson's family, in a statement released late Wednesday afternoon, said, "We are overjoyed to announce that, as of yesterday evening, officials at Emory University Hospital and the Centers for Disease Control are no longer able to detect virus in her body."

"She has also been approved for transfer from isolation," Vinson's family said.

But dozens of other hospital workers are being monitored in Dallas because they had contact with Duncan or his medical samples.

An OB/GYN specialist who practices at a Texas Health hospital building that is not connected to the ER told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram that the Ebola cases "definitely has had an impact," with "a significant number of cancellations" by patients.

"Many people are calling for advice and we're trying to talk them off the ledge," Dr. Jay Staub told the Star-Telegram.

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Moody's analyst Lisa Goldstein told the Star-Telegram in an email that "the Ebola event could result in short- or long-term harm to the hospital's finances and reputation."