- Universal Health Services posted $218.4 million in net income for the third quarter, down from $241.3 million during the same period last year.
- The hospital chain beat Wall Street expectations on revenue, though, at $3.15 billion, up from $2.9 billion during the third quarter of last year.
- UHS' acute care hospital segment outperformed while its behavioral health segment underperformed, mostly offsetting each other, CFO Steve Filton said on a call Tuesday with investors. The company is maintaining its full-year guidance.
For-profit hospitals dealt with an onslaught of COVID-19 patients with the delta variant in the third quarter that again strained their resources.
UHS' acute care admissions with a COVID-19 diagnosis during the period was around 14%, Filton said on the Tuesday call.
But "unlike previous surges, non-COVID volumes including emergency room visits and elective and scheduled procedures were not crowded out and in fact, generally were running at or near pre-pandemic levels," he said.
At UHS' acute care hospitals, adjusted admissions increased 12.4% and adjusted patient days increased about 11% compared to the third quarter of 2020.
Its behavioral health segment suffered, though, and adjusted admissions at those facilities decreased 2.7% and adjusted patient days decreased 2.1% compared to the same period last year.
Executives said that was due to "the capping of bed capacity in some cases to properly isolate COVID patients, and in other cases because of a shortage of appropriate patient care personnel."
Analysts on for-profit hospital earnings calls this quarter have been keen on labor costs, which have risen across the board for operators that have reported so far.
While higher acute care revenues were able to offset premium labor costs for UHS, it still spent more on overtime, temporary travel nurses and sign-on bonuses to recruit and retain needed staff during the period, CEO Marc Miller said on the call.
Turnover now is a key challenge, driven in part by nurses seeking higher-paying, temporary travel nurse positions elsewhere. Though that should wane as COVID-19 cases and demand for temporary staff decline, Miller said.
"I think most nurses will ultimately return to their home both literally and figuratively — geographically as well as back to their original jobs — as many of our nurses have told us," Miller said.
It's unclear exactly how long it will take for that to happen, however. While its peers Tenet and HCA both raised their full-year guidance following third quarter earnings results, UHS is maintaining its guidance.
"The most difficult aspect of projecting future results is understanding the pace of COVID decline," Miller said.