The Delta Dental of Tennessee Smile180 Foundation has awarded more than $325,000 to the state’s seven children’s hospitals as part of its ongoing COVID-19 response initiative, Operation #SmilesMatter.
As the pandemic hit, Delta Dental of Tennessee said, children’s hospitals suspended elective care, stockpiled supplies, and developed contingency surge plans to support their adult counterparts. Months later, even as some elective procedures have resumed, the company said, philanthropic support is still vital.
“While adult hospitals have heroically cared for COVID-19 patients, we can’t forget about our children’s hospitals, who are coping with lost revenue, canceled fundraising events, and limited access to federal relief,” said Dr. Phil Wenk, CEO and president of Delta Dental of Tennessee.
“We hope that this support allows our children’s hospital partners to amplify their fundraising efforts during this unprecedented and difficult time for so many,” said Wenk.
While COVID-19 related hospitalizations among children are rare, pediatric COVID-19 cases rose 90% between early July and August across the country, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Children’s Hospital Association, which also found that Tennessee has the fourth highest cumulative number of pediatric cases.
At the same time, the hospitals children rely on are experiencing the financial pain of the pandemic, Delta Dental of Tennessee said. According to the Children’s Hospital Association, revenues are down 40%, and individual children’s hospitals are losing $1 million in revenue each day. And because Medicaid is the primary payer to children’s hospitals, many have been left out of federal relief payments tied to Medicare claims, Delta Dental of Tennessee said.
“We are so grateful for the leadership and support of our longtime partners at Delta Dental of Tennessee,” said Meg Rush, MD, MMHC, president of Monroe Carell Jr Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt. “Now more than ever, community support and partnerships are critical to allowing us to provide essential care for children and their families from across the region.”
Many children’s hospitals are nonprofit organizations and rely heavily on fundraising events to further their missions, Delta Dental of Tennessee said. With many of these events canceled, donations from the community have been crucial during this time, the company said.
For example, Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt has had to cancel one of its biggest fundraisers of the year, the Rascal Flats Celebrity Golf Classic, originally slated for October. These community events contribute millions of dollars to children’s hospitals each year.
The Smile180 Foundation supports Tennessee’s dental colleges, children’s hospitals, free and reduced cost dental clinics, and other likeminded charities. Since its founding in 2014, it has contributed $3 million to support Tennessee’s children’s hospitals, including more than $500,000 in 2020.
Earlier this year, Delta Dental pledged more than $3.3 million to fund a $1,000 credit for all Tennessee dentists to use to acquire needed supplies as they prepared to safely reopen their practices. It also donated $1.1 million to Tennessee safety-net dental clinics and has supported statewide relief efforts through the Second Harvest Food Bank and the Salvation Army.