MHA CEO Report - Making Progress Against COVID-19
Posted on August 03, 2020
"A pint of sweat saves a gallon of blood.” — General George S. Patton
Living in a society with a 24/7 news cycle can be draining. It is no secret the seriousness and unprecedented nature of the pandemic we find ourselves in: a quick review of the latest metrics show 426 new cases were identified yesterday in Michigan, bringing our total to 82,782. Over 6,000 Michiganders have now died from COVID-19. However, amid daily case reports and COVID-19 outbreaks, significant progress has been made over the past few months that enables Michigan hospitals to continue to improve the health and wellness of our communities. Our hospitals are facing monumental challenges, but through continued dedication and hard work, the MHA and our members are collaborating across industries and business sectors to achieve our common goals.
There is no greater resource in this pandemic than our healthcare workforce, and ensuring they have the appropriate supply of personal protective equipment (PPE) is vital. While Michigan hospitals have purchased at least $93 million worth of PPE, the state has purchased an additional $250 million worth. A number of Michigan businesses have changed their production capacity to produce PPE, and the MHA has worked to coordinate donations directly to Michigan hospitals to every extent possible. Thankfully hospitals’ PPE “burn rates” and inventory on hand are much improved since April, and we stand at the ready in case of another COVID-19 patient surge.
To protect our workforce, the MHA also actively pushed for and ultimately secured liability protections through Executive Order 2020-61 and have advocated for the passage of Senate Bill 899. These protections are important to ensure providers serving on the front lines are not penalized for providing care during the unprecedented surge of COVID-19 patients when treatment was constantly evolving. In addition, the MHA has achieved regulatory relief through waived cost-sharing for COVID-19 testing and treatment, increased telemedicine opportunities and expansion of beds during surge through our state’s certificate of need (CON) process.
The MHA has been active in several other areas. For months, the MHA has worked with our hospitals to voluntarily publish hospital COVID-19 patient census and PPE days on hand and to share this data with interested parties. Not only does this data provide a transparent picture of how hospitals are faring amid the pandemic, but it also gives the state of Michigan valuable data for decision-making.
In addition, testing is vital in containing the spread of COVID-19. Hospital labs are an important piece in that effort, averaging 7,000 tests per day as Michigan’s overall testing capacity continues to increase. However, testing supplies such as reagents, swabs and transport media remain limited. The MHA has been coordinating with both state and federal partners to identify specific needs and advocate for more supplies in Michigan.
All of these efforts have come at a steep price. Last week the MHA released financial estimates on the impact of COVID-19 on Michigan hospitals. The 2020 COVID-19 Impact Report, Michigan’s Front Line of Defense, shows combined financial losses related to COVID-19 of nearly $3.2 billion. These estimates are based on voluntary data submitted by our members and likely represent the low end of financial losses. Even with CARES funding, our hospitals are facing a deficit of nearly $1.1 billion, which is growing every day.
These estimates also do not factor in expected losses due to the historic unemployment rates, as more patients move to Medicaid or become uninsured. During normal circumstances, the yearly total unpaid cost of care for Michigan hospitals is nearly $2.6 billion.
This financial impact is one of the largest hurdles our hospitals are trying to overcome. To address the revenue-related losses and increased expenditures, the MHA has helped to secure $2.1 billion in federal support through CARES funding, while adding an additional $25 million in state appropriations for hospitals. The MHA also actively worked with state lawmakers to ensure that the association’s priorities in the fiscal year (FY) 2020 budget were held harmless from reductions, including the rural access pool and obstetrical stabilization fund, Medicaid rates and provider tax-funded pools. Yet more support is needed, and we are closely monitoring negotiations at the federal level for additional support, particularly for Medicare loan forgiveness and liability protections, and at the state level as negotiations on the FY 2021 budget ramp up in advance of the Oct. 1 start of the new fiscal year.
Lastly, providing accurate information to the public and conveying a consistent message for our hospitals led to over 200 interviews with local, state and national media outlets being conducted. We’ve also highlighted on social media more than 250 healthcare professionals – nurses, physicians, environmental service workers and others – from communities across the state and thanked them for their dedication to fighting COVID-19 and caring for patients. More than 431,000 people shared, liked and/or commented on the posts.
In efforts to support public health, the Partnership for Michigan’s Health, which is comprised of the MHA, the Michigan Osteopathic Association and the Michigan State Medical Society, also issued a joint release urging residents to remain vigilant about distancing and wearing masks to prevent a second large surge of COVID-19 in the state. In addition, the partnership also published a joint op-ed in The Detroit News on the importance of vaccinations. Fighting the spread of misinformation to promote appropriate safety precautions can help limit the number of patients who become infected and ultimately require treatment.
Overall, even with an FDA-approved COVID-19 vaccine, we know it will take time and effort to eradicate this disease. Our hospitals have discharged more than 16,000 COVID-19 patients, and we know that number will only continue to grow over the coming months. However, that figure also represents parents, grandparents, friends and colleagues who have been stricken by COVID-19 and recovered. The actions we’re taking are helping our front-line caregivers make a difference and save lives. These efforts that I just reviewed are vital in ensuring the viability of our healthcare organizations and the health of the patients we serve.
The bottom line is that our collective hard work and determined efforts related to COVID-19 are unquestionably saving lives. Despite the exhaustion this entails, we must commit to continuing this critical work.
As always, I welcome your thoughts.
P.S. Don’t forget to participate in tomorrow’s state primary election, as the 2020 presidential election is critical to Michigan’s healthcare future. Please visit our MHA elections webpage for more information and resources.
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