Combating the 2019 Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19): Week of April 20
Posted on April 24, 2020
As Gov. Gretchen Whitmer extended the stay home, stay safe order for an additional two weeks, with relaxation of some of the former restrictions, the MHA has continued to send regular updates to MHA members on ways the pandemic affects them. Additional updates and resources are available on the MHA COVID-19 webpage. Highlights from the week of April 20 are summarized below.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has provided information on additional allocations of funding through the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. Distribution of $20 billion from Provider Relief Fund was expected to begin as early as April 24 to Medicare facilities and providers impacted by COVID-19. This is second portion of the $50 billion allocated from the fund for general distribution; $30 billion was sent to providers in early April. In addition, hospitals in areas that have been particularly impacted by the outbreak will share $10 billion in targeted funds. An additional $10 billion will be distributed among rural health clinics and hospitals that have been affected. More information was emailed to members in the April 22 member update.
To receive future funds from the CARES Act, the HHS requires additional reporting from hospitals. The information necessary to submit the data did not reach some hospitals, creating significant confusion. As a result of requests from the MHA, other state hospital associations and the American Hospital Association, the HHS extended the submission deadline from 11:59 p.m. EDT April 23 to 3 p.m. EDT April 25. Hospitals that continue to have difficulty submitting data should contact technical support at HHS vendor TeleTracking at (877) 570-6903, leaving a message if necessary. Additional information on the requested data, including the definition of "confirmed COVID-19 diagnosis" in this instance, was emailed to members in the April 23 member update.
The Families First Coronavirus Response Act that the president signed March 18 included a provision to increase by 6.2 percentage points the Federal Medical Assistance Percentage, which determines the rate of federal matching funds for Medicaid and other government programs. This increases Michigan’s federal match rate from 64.06% to 70.26%, effective from Jan. 1, 2020, until the end of the quarter in which the federal emergency is terminated. The MHA has worked with the state of Michigan to maximize these savings for member organizations, resulting in an annual net savings of $54 million while the enhanced rate is in effect.
Included in the $484 billion Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act that the president signed April 24 is $75 billion for hospitals nationwide for healthcare-related expenses or lost revenues that are attributable to the COVID-19 outbreak. An additional $321 billion is allocated to the small business lending program, which may be accessed by small and rural hospitals.
Other sources of hospital funding include a second application opportunity for Distance Learning and Telemedicine Grants offered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Rural hospitals are encouraged to apply for this funding to improve or initiate telehealth services in their communities (see related article). Applications are due by July 13.
In addition, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) announced a COVID-19 Telehealth Program that will provide $200 million in funding as part of the CARES Act. While the funding lasts or until the pandemic ends, this program will provide immediate support to eligible healthcare providers by funding their communications and information services and devices necessary to provide critical connected care services. Interested hospitals should reference the FCC frequently asked questions and register for an FCC Registration Number before submitting an application. Additional guidance on the application process is available in the FCC Public Notice.
Two federal grants have been awarded to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities Administration (BHDDA) to help ease the emotional effects of the pandemic on Michiganders. The Substance Abuse and Maternal Health Services Administration will provide $2 million to assist Michiganders living with mental health and/or substance use disorders and less severe mental illness, including healthcare professionals. The state intends to partner with five Community Mental Health Services Programs that were identified as having the greatest need related to COVID-19. A second grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency will provide BHDDA with $372,000 to roll out a short-term emergency program providing crisis counseling to certain individuals. More information will be shared on these opportunities as it becomes available.
Testing for COVID-19
The MDHHS updated guidance for COVID-19 testing prioritization effective April 21 to include all healthcare workers, first responders, and critical infrastructure workers, regardless of whether they are experiencing symptoms. The MDHHS encourages healthcare providers to expand the amount of COVID-19 testing and announced that testing capacity can be assisted by NxGen Laboratories, Grand Rapids, using a testing method that has received Food and Drug Administration Emergency Use Authorization, supplies specimen collection materials and offers results within 48 hours. The announcements for testing prioritization and the expanded ability to process tests are included in the April 21 update that was emailed to members.
The state of Michigan is working with a company called Castlight to publish COVID-19 test sites on the state’s coronavirus webpage. The state’s Community Health Emergency Coordination Center reviews the information on the site, confirms requests submitted by the public before they go live, and submits updates/corrections daily. The MHA urges hospitals to check the site to ensure their test sites are accurately accounted for. Missing and/or corrected information should be emailed to email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org, including the name of the testing facility, the address and phone number of the testing site, and a brief description of the site’s testing procedure and requirements.
Hospital Data Reporting
New statewide data related to the novel coronavirus pandemic was unveiled April 23 on the state of Michigan’s coronavirus webpage. Using data that hospitals submit to the state’s EMResource portal, the MHA developed a report for the state webpage detailing information on patient census, personal protective equipment and bed occupancy rates (see related article).
Resuming Healthcare Services and Procedures
The MHA Board of Trustees discussed at its April 22 meeting some potential outcomes of hospitals beginning to safely resume time-sensitive procedures for non-COVID-19 patients (see related article). As the number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients slowly declines, some hospitals are finding capacity for procedures that were delayed under the governor’s Executive Order (EO) 2020-17. Clarification from the governor’s office confirms that authorized clinicians may use their medical judgement to determine which additional services may be resumed during Michigan’s state of emergency.
Tools for Healthcare Worker/Patient Emotional Support
The MDHHS released three documents intended for use by frontline healthcare workers and the patients they serve, focused on emotional health and well-being. They are available on the MDHHS website:
Resources for Filling Healthcare Jobs
Through a partnership of the MDHHS and the Michigan Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity, a healthcare jobs portal will soon be launched. Healthcare employers that have not previously used Pure Michigan Talent Connect (PMTC) may post open positions using the COVID-19 On Demand Hiring Intake Form. Employers with an existing PMTC profile may log into their account and follow the current post-a-job process.
The MHA also provides a job portal where hospitals can both post their staffing needs and list available staff to be shared with other facilities. Members with questions about this site may contact Sam R. Watson at the MHA.
In addition, MHA endorsed business partner Merritt Hawkins recently provided insight on physician recruiting efforts during the pandemic. The article includes information on how the interview process has evolved and ways to conduct parts of the process virtually. Members can get additional information from Benjamin Jones at Merritt Hawkins.
The pandemic has disproportionately impacted communities of color across the state. For example, while African Americans represent 13.6% of Michigan’s population, they account for 40% of the deaths from COVID-19. Therefore, the governor has created the Michigan Coronavirus Task Force on Racial Disparities to study the causes of racial disparities in the impact of COVID-19 and recommend actions to immediately address them. The MHA, which has placed a growing focus on health equity and social determinants of health, strongly supports the creation of the task force. The group is chaired by Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist, and several leaders of Michigan hospitals will serve as members.
Additional information about all of these topics is available to members on the MHA Community Site and the MHA COVID-19 webpage. If staff members at MHA-member facilities are not receiving necessary information from the MHA, they are asked to check the spam/junk mail folders in their email systems or ask their information technology departments to ensure MHA messages are not being blocked.
Questions on COVID-19 and infectious disease response strategies may be directed to the MDHHS Community Health Emergency Coordination Center (CHECC). Members with MHA-specific questions should contact the following MHA staff members:
Advocacy and regulatory issues: Laura Appel
Safety and quality: Brittany Bogan
Communications and media: Ruthanne Sudderth
Emergency preparedness: Rob Wood
Posted in: Issues in Healthcare, Member News, Top Issues - Healthcare