MHA CEO Report – Preventing a Flu Surge
Posted on October 01, 2020
“Health care is vital to all of us some of the time, but public health is vital to all of us all of the time.” — C. Everett Koop
The mission of the MHA is to advance the health of individuals and communities. I have never been prouder of that mission than I am today and of how that mission is being fulfilled by the hospitals and health systems throughout our state that are truly on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic. Our association has been in constant daily contact with the amazing men and women who work in those hospitals and health systems, and it is from that unique perspective that we are very concerned about the potential for a COVID-19 surge at the same time as an influenza surge here in Michigan later this year. In that scenario, many of our hospitals could potentially fill to capacity — a scenario that we have seen earlier this year in several communities throughout Michigan.
Looking back at the 2019-2020 influenza season, we had 952 flu-related hospitalizations in Michigan and, tragically, six pediatric deaths. Without question, this is deadly serious business. But the good news is that we can avoid that same scenario if we take strong actions today.
Everyone is speculating today when we’ll have an approved and widely available vaccine for COVID-19. When you talk about the flu, the reality is that tool already exists in our toolbox. We know that flu vaccines work. From the perspective of the MHA and our hospitals and health systems, we know that flu vaccines have been proven to reduce the risk of hospitalization for both children and adults, which is validated by a wide range of peer-reviewed literature. The bottom line is, the science is clearly with us.
As we enter the 2020-2021 flu season, we have strengthened our partnership with the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) in several ways. Last year, just over 30% of Michiganders received an influenza vaccine. This is why we’re proud to support the MDHHS Facing the Flu Together statewide public awareness campaign, which seeks to increase flu vaccination rates in Michigan by at least 33% this year. In addition, all hospital and health system CEOs received a letter last month co-signed by myself and Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, chief medical executive and chief deputy director for health at the MDHHS, outlining how hospitals can help increase influenza vaccines this year across Michigan.
The first ask is urging all hospitals to use both existing and innovative outreach modalities to offer the flu vaccine to their communities. That could include mobile clinics, emergency departments and outpatient facilities. In addition, new drive-thru testing sites for COVID-19 organized and funded by our member hospitals are perfect opportunities to deliver the flu vaccine to the public.
We’re also asking our hospitals to mandate and provide flu vaccine to all healthcare personnel. The vast majority of our members have had mandatory flu vaccine policies in place for front-line caregivers. We’d like to expand that to all employees of our hospitals and health systems because they can easily come in contact with those front-line caregivers, not to mention families, friends and others. Think about the fact that hospitals in Michigan employ over 230,000 individuals, and it is clear that we have the opportunity as employers to lead by example in this way.
Finally, we’re urging our members to amplify public messaging to lift the importance of flu vaccines this fall. The MHA works with I Vaccinate, the Alliance for Immunizations in Michigan, the Parent Information Network and others to measure, educate and promote appropriate vaccinations for all Michigan residents. This communications work is now more important than ever.
Rest assured that the MHA and our membership are actively engaged as we continue to combat COVID-19 and the flu in Michigan. We ask our fellow Michiganders to do all they can to help.
As always, I welcome your thoughts.
Posted in: MHA Rounds