The ongoing coronavirus pandemic continued to have a significant influence on the performance of Asklepios Kliniken GmbH & Co. KGaA in the first quarter of 2021 as well. Capacity continued to be kept available in order to provide an appropriate response to the third wave of the pandemic – to the detriment of regular operations, which remained considerably impaired as a result. There was a substantial drop in the number of patients treated year-on-year. Despite its declining income, Asklepios is continuing to pursue its sustainable corporate strategy and is investing in enhancing the level of care and medical equipment at its healthcare facilities.
In the first quarter of 2021, Asklepios (not including Rhön) treated a total of 530,867 patients (3M 2020: 583,107) at its healthcare facilities, while Rhön-Klinikum AG treated another 192,152 patients (3M 2020: 211,788). The sharp decline in patient numbers is mainly attributable to inpatient treatments, as many elective treatments were postponed or cancelled because of the pandemic and hospital capacity had to be kept available. Asklepios (not including Rhön) reported a decrease of around 20% in the number of inpatient treatments compared with the same quarter of the previous year.
“Our employees have been working tirelessly under the strain of the COVID-19 pandemic for over a year. At the same time, we are continuing to see a great many treatments and screening procedures be postponed. It is now up to the political class to take resolute action and lead the way out of this historic crisis and back to some form of normality,” said Kai Hankeln, CEO of the Asklepios Group. “This is vital, not just for patients but for the healthcare system as well. Hospitals should not be permanently reliant on taxpayer aid, but should earn their own income through the provision of services. Our goal is to get back to offering our full range of medical services as quickly as we possibly can.”
The revenue of the Asklepios hospitals amounted to EUR 1,221.0 million in the first quarter of 2021 (3M 2020: EUR 915.0 million). The year-on-year increase stems from the first-time consolidation of Rhön-Klinikum AG on 1 July 2020, which generated revenue of EUR 340.2 million. Consolidated revenue includes revenue of EUR 117.8 million relating to compensation payments for the provision of bed capacity. However, these flat-rate allowances for keeping capacity available cover the hospital business only – rehabilitation facilities and psychiatric hospitals are currently having to cope without comprehensive aid, despite suffering substantial losses.
Absolute staff costs went up by EUR 229.7 million as a result of the rise in our full-time equivalents to 50,050 (3M 2020: 36,690). We are still seeing a higher absolute cost of materials due to the considerable coronavirus-driven cost increases for personal protective equipment and for hygiene and laboratory supplies. Other operating expenses were reduced as a result of savings on advertising and travel expenses. Following the consolidated net loss as at 31 December 2020, consolidated net income (EAT) amounts to EUR 37 thousand in the first quarter of 2021 (3M 2020: EUR 9.7 million).
Asklepios’ financial position was stable at the end of the first quarter of 2021. The Group’s net debt came to EUR 2,186.8 million as at 31 March 2021 (31 December 2020: EUR 2,181.5 million). Cash and cash equivalents amounted to EUR 619.3 million (31 December 2020: EUR 548.5 million). The ratio of net debt to EBITDA for the past 12 months fell to 3.6x (31 December 2020: 3.8x).
Asklepios (including Rhön) made total investments of EUR 76.4 million in the first quarter of 2021 (3M 2020, not including Rhön: EUR 62.6 million). Asklepios supplied own funds of EUR 59.2 million, which covered around 77.4% (3M 2020: 80.0%) of the total investments. The Group employed 50,050 full-time equivalents in the first quarter of 2021 (3M 2020, not including Rhön: 36,690 full-time equivalents).
“Despite the pandemic, we are still investing actively and have pressed ahead with key projects,” emphasised Hafid Rifi, CFO of the Asklepios Group. “Our forward-looking financial strategy is proving essential during the crisis. For as long as the government fails to provide all-encompassing support to hospitals – including rehabilitation and psychiatric fields – and there is a shortage of statutory investment, we will have to maintain solid internal financing and carry on thinking one step ahead.”
Business development over the remainder of the year will hinge in particular on the speed at which Germany can vaccinate its entire population. At this moment in time, it is still impossible to determine when hospitals will be operating normally again and will be able to catch up on the backlog of postponed operations that has been building over recent months. Asklepios will continue to play its part in the pandemic effort and ensure it delivers the best possible medical care.
Asklepios Kliniken is one of the leading private operators of hospitals and healthcare facilities in Germany. The hospital group stands for highly qualified care for its patients, with a clear commitment to medical quality, innovation and social responsibility. On this basis, Asklepios has grown dynamically since it was founded almost 35 years ago. The Group currently has around 160 healthcare facilities throughout Germany, including acute care hospitals for all levels of care, specialist clinics, psychiatric and forensic facilities, rehabilitation clinics, nursing homes and medical service centres. In the 2019 financial year, 2.5 million patients were treated at the Asklepios Group’s facilities. The company has more than 49,000 employees.