Since we confirmed our first patient case in January 2020, HCA Healthcare has treated more suspected and positive COVID-19 cases than any other health system in the United States, including more than 155,000 patients admitted for inpatient care (as of March 31, 2021).
We're big enough to make a positive impact, but nimble enough to make the smallest of differences. It means we are able to efficiently move resources from city to city as the coronavirus surge moves. It means we learn fast - and can quickly improve patient care by sharing our learnings with colleagues at other hospitals.
It means we can help people navigate uncertainty. We created a Patient Benefit Advisor hotline to answer questions from recently uninsured patients, offering assistance in connecting them with and applying for insurance coverage options such as COBRA, HIX and Medicaid. By the end of 2020, 7,200 patients were assisted through the hotline.
At the same time, small moments have big impacts. Holding the hand of a patient when family cannot be by the bedside. Providing iPads for virtual visits. Celebrating when a patient goes home.
Our patients are our top priority. We stand for accessible, high-quality healthcare, delivered with compassion, integrity and kindness for all who come through our doors, whether they have insurance or not. When communication is a barrier, we provide our caregivers and staff access to translation and interpretation services to communicate with patients and families who have limited English proficiency, deafness or hearing loss, blindness or low vision, or other communication challenges.
We believe in always doing what is right for our patients, and continually develop technologies and programs that positively influence our patients' care experience. We utilize data from our more than 32 million annual patient encounters to conduct research, share learnings, and create innovative tools that change the delivery of healthcare not just for our patients, but for patients everywhere.
In 2020, HCA Healthcare provided care to more than 122,000 COVID-19 inpatients - more than any other healthcare system in the United States.
Many of our colleagues live and work in the same communities and neighborhoods as our patients. We want the same things that our patients want: healthier communities that lead to healthier tomorrows. From local initiatives to HCA Healthcare partnerships and support around the country, our colleagues are deeply committed to learning, serving and leading in their communities. In 2020, more than 5,400 community organizations were supported through colleagues' charitable acts of giving and volunteering.
Working with organizations whose missions align with our own, we can have an even greater impact on our communities. Our support extends beyond sponsorships into truly collaborative partnerships, through which we can take better care of our patients, families and communities. A couple of these partnerships include The Jason Foundation and March of Dimes. Through our work with The Jason Foundation, we provide educational materials to parents, teachers and students to support the prevention of youth suicide. HCA Healthcare also partners with the March of Dimes to improve the lives of moms, babies and families across the country.
We want the same things that our patients want: healthier communities that lead to healthier tomorrows.
At the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, we executed a plan to further protect our people. We shored up our supply chain - our capabilities, logistical management, control system and sourcing - to secure necessary personal protective equipment (PPE) for the looming increase of COVID-19 cases. We also put in place enhanced precautions to make our clinical care facilities among the safest possible places for our employees and our patients. Following updated guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), our safety policies have included universal masking, isolating COVID-19 patients, enhanced screening and virtual visitation policies.
We also committed to continuing employment, and we are proud to say that we have not laid off or furloughed a single employee as a result of the pandemic. Early on, HCA Healthcare launched a special pandemic pay program, which guaranteed that full- and part-time colleagues in clinical and non-clinical support services would continue to receive 70% of their base pay if they were not scheduled for their full shifts and could not be redeployed to other facilities. Our no-layoff policy also helped ensure our hospitals would have sufficient staffing as facilities reopened and services resumed.
Any colleague who had to quarantine due to exposure or a positive COVID-19 test also received 100% of base pay for scheduled hours during the quarantine period, regardless of where the exposure took place. As of December, 31 2020, more than 127,000 employees had taken advantage of the program, and the organization spent more than $200 million in supporting those employees.
This year, HCA Healthcare was recognized on the 2021 LinkedIn Top Companies ranking, an annual guide that identifies the best places for professionals to grow their careers and develop skills. The ranking acknowledges organizations for investing in employee success, career development, and equity and inclusion. In addition, HCA Healthcare was recognized for the 11th time by Ethisphere, a global leader in defining and advancing the standards of ethical business practices, as one of the World's Most Ethical Companies. HCA Healthcare is one of only seven honorees in the Healthcare Providers category.
We have not laid off or furloughed a single employee as a result of the pandemic.
The CARES Act, enacted on March 27, 2020, provided emergency financial assistance to healthcare providers and was intended to ensure hospitals would have essential resources during the pandemic.
During the early days of the pandemic, we took a conservative approach to meet the operational and financial challenges this global health crisis was expected to present. As a result of these actions, and other factors, HCA Healthcare was able to return, or repay early, approximately $6 billion in CARES Act funds. We chose to return the taxpayer dollars we did not need because it's the right thing to do. We greatly appreciate the CARES Act funding and the policymakers who fought hard to ensure hospitals would have the essential resources during the pandemic. And HealthONE is proud to be a part of an organization that does that right thing.
HCA Healthcare has a history of giving back to our country in other ways, as well. For instance, our network enables us to conduct leading-edge research and share best practices and support services not just across our facilities, but also across the country. HCA Healthcare has partnered with local and state governments, the federal government, technology companies and other health systems to pool resources, expertise and capabilities that have created innovative alliances that help improve the national response to COVID-19. As part of this effort, HCA Healthcare provided up to 1,000 ventilators to hospitals experiencing a surge of patients with COVID-19.
HCA Healthcare has returned or repaid early approximately $6 billion in CARES Act funds.