Calais Regional Hospital (right) and Penobscot Valley Hospital in Lincoln (left) Credit: Nick Sambides Jr. (left) and Bill Trotter (right) | BDN

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A staffing firm that employs some of the doctors in three rural Maine hospitals — including two that are now in bankruptcy and suing the federal government for stimulus funding — is reportedly considering filing for bankruptcy itself as a result of steep revenue shortfalls related to the coronavirus.

Just as those hospitals have lost considerable revenue after preparing to handle the pandemic, Envision Healthcare Corp. is struggling to pay off $7 billion in debt after the crisis forced medical systems all across the U.S. to delay lucrative elective services, according to Bloomberg.

[Our COVID-19 tracker contains the most recent information on Maine cases by county]

As a result, Envision — which provides staffing to hospitals across the country — has hired restructuring advisors and considered seeking Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection to help manage its debts, Bloomberg reported. It based the report on information from unnamed sources who said the situation was fluid and subject to change.

Envision, one of the largest physician staffing firms in the country, employs the ER doctors of Calais Regional Hospital, Penobscot Valley Hospital in Lincoln and Down East Community Hospital in Machias. It also employs the doctors, known as hospitalists, who see admitted patients at Penobscot Valley Hospital.

An Envision spokesperson, Aliese Polk, did not directly respond to a request for confirmation of the Bloomberg report or an explanation of how a bankruptcy proceeding would affect its services at the three Maine hospitals.

“As clinicians who live and work in the Washington and Penobscot communities, we are focused on caring for our neighbors and supporting our hospital partners,” Polk said in an emailed response. “Envision Physician Services is treating COVID-19 patients and working to mitigate the spread of the virus while continuing to provide care to all patients seeking emergency care in the communities it serves.”

In general, companies usually continue operating during Chapter 11 bankruptcy, but it gives them protections while they try to reorganize their debts and return to profitability, according to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. Some companies continue to operate after the process, while others end up being liquidated.

All three Maine hospitals that use Envision doctors run on thin or negative operating margins. In the last year-and-a-half, Calais Regional Hospital and Penobscot Valley Hospital have both sought Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection to help restructure their millions in debts. The Calais and Machias hospitals began using Envision to staff their emergency rooms in recent months.

As part of their bankruptcy cases, the Calais and Lincoln hospitals have both just filed lawsuits against the federal government because they were denied access to a relief program meant to help small businesses keep their staff employed during the coronavirus, but that has interim rules barring applicants who are in bankruptcy. The hospitals have said that restriction is unlawful and that they could have to close their doors by the end of June if they don’t receive more stimulus funds.

A Calais Regional Hospital spokesperson referred any questions to Envision, and Penobscot Valley Hospital CEO Crystal Landry said that she had not heard reports that the company may file for bankruptcy.

Julie Hixson, a spokesperson for Down East Community Hospital, said: “We don’t have any real information on this and feel it would be imprudent to prematurely speculate on their possible bankruptcy protection filing. Regardless, it will play no part in our ability to stay safely staffed or our ability to care for the people who come to our emergency department.

“The people in this community have enough to deal with right now,” Hixson added. “We want them to know that DECH and all our provider practices are here to take care of them. We also want them to know that Envision is committed to taking care of patients at DECH; they have assured us of that.”

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