Federal Funding Will Help Rural Michigan Hospitals Tackling COVID-19
Posted on March 26, 2020
This MHA Rounds Guest Blog was written by Shelleye Yaklin, president and CEO, North Ottawa Community Hospital
We are experiencing unprecedented times as our community, state and country respond to the 2019 Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. The efforts implemented by the state to slow the spread or “flatten the curve” have affected all of our personal and professional lives, and they have had a profound impact on all hospitals that are working hard to care not only for those with COVID-19, but also those who need us for other reasons.
The impact has been especially challenging for smaller hospitals, like North Ottawa Community Health System in Grand Haven. Like all others, we have heeded the call. We have halted elective procedures, implemented stringent screening procedures for staff and patients, as well as restricted visitation. We have also scaled up our standard emergency planning to meet the extraordinary needs facing our community. Included in our plan is a call to reduce our inpatient capacity by 20-30% so that we have the ability to admit a surge of patients.
The challenge with all that’s listed above boils down to this … our revenue has come to an abrupt halt right at the time we are being asked to not only cover the cost of providing routine care, but also invest in incredible amounts of resources in preparedness for when the surge arrives at our doorstep.
Community (smaller) hospitals operate with very slim margins, because we do not render the kind of care that generates the most profit, e.g. transplants, cancer care, cardiac care. Therefore, our ability to continue providing all levels of service during the hiatus – the time between losing our main source of income and receiving governmental subsidies – is exceedingly difficult. We are not alone. There are a significant number of hospitals like us in Michigan and beyond that are facing similar challenges.
As a leader, this has weighed on me, just as the uncertainty has weighed on all of us. Fortunately, at the federal level, an agreement reached this week will provide at least $100 billion to hospitals across the country. While details on how and when the funding will be distributed have not been announced, this news is exactly what hospitals like ours need in order to focus on COVID-19 without worrying about the long-term impact on our hospital. We have an obligation to care for anyone who steps through our doors and with this additional financial certainty, we can continue to do so.
Under my leadership, North Ottawa will do everything in its power to be the safety net for the Grand Haven community. I am proud of our role in the community, not just as a healer, but as an employer. While difficult decisions have to be considered and made during a time of crisis, I can assure you that these decisions will not be made lightly and are made with the best interests of our community in mind.
As we move through the coming days and weeks, I implore you to continue to follow the social distancing guidelines set in place by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. Hospital staff are reporting to work every day and all that we ask is that you remain home to keep them safe. With everyone working together, we can slow the spread of COVID-19 and ultimately beat it.
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