"If you’re going through Hell, keep going." — Winston Churchill
Last week we celebrated Memorial Day, a day of remembrance for all those who have served our country and lost their lives. As we’re all aware, our nation has been battling a new enemy over these last two and a half months that has taken many victims. I want to express my condolences not only to the families of our fallen soldiers, but also to the families of those individuals who have succumbed to COVID-19, especially first responders and healthcare personnel serving on the front lines.
While we move into summer, there are indications that we have been successful at flattening the COVID-19 curve in Michigan, including steadily declining caseloads in most of our hospitals throughout the state. In recognition of this trend, as well as more robust supplies of personal protective equipment (PPE), enhanced testing capabilities, and hospitals’ significant efforts to adopt new infection control policies and procedures, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has lifted Executive Order 2020-17, which had created restrictions on nonessential procedures in Michigan hospitals. Concurrently, the MHA was proud to launch a new public messaging campaign encouraging all Michiganders with healthcare needs to come to the hospital without further delay.
These successes have come at a steep price. In a study recently released by the American Hospital Association, the COVID-19-related monthly losses for hospitals nationwide exceed $50 billion. And because Michigan is among the hardest-hit states, our hospitals have suffered as acutely as any.
Here in Lansing, the state Legislature is now focusing on a historic, unprecedented budget deficit. The financial status of our state is dire, as just a few weeks ago, the official Revenue Estimating Conference pegged our budget shortfall at $6.3 billion for fiscal years 2020 and 2021. Legislative leaders have already signaled that no group that depends on state funding will be spared when cuts inevitably have to be made. However, I would urge at this time that special consideration needs to be made for hospitals and the healthcare providers that have been serving on the front lines of the pandemic. Not only are hospitals very significant employers in their own right, but any effort to reinvigorate the overall Michigan economy will fail to succeed if hospitals — which are critical in dealing with the pandemic and ensuring a healthy workforce — are not able to survive and thrive. In war, everything is done to strengthen defenses, and we must recognize that hospitals are absolutely the front line of defense in this particular war. Any significant funding cuts made to hospitals through the state budget process will severely hinder our ability to treat patients and help return our state economy to any degree of normalcy. In short, it is now time to stop the financial bleeding for hospitals, not exacerbate it.
My message to our staff and membership has been consistent; we will get through this. While we’re still far away from eradicating this disease, we have come a long way in our understanding and treatment of COVID-19. We have become more flexible in our care delivery models, rapidly increasing our utilization of telemedicine. Our infectious disease protocols are quickly changing for the better, with innovative PPE solutions entering our facilities on a weekly basis. Hospital labs across the state have continued to come online to increase testing capacity.
Our Michigan congressional delegation has delivered strong, bipartisan support to Michigan hospitals and healthcare throughout this crisis, and it is greatly appreciated. At the same time, Gov. Whitmer and our elected officials at the state level have also been excellent, supportive partners. As the state budget process ramps back up, we need their support now more than ever. Hospitals serve our communities 24/7/365 for a wide variety of ailments, ranging from the elation of delivering a child to the lifesaving abilities of trauma care. We exist to serve and protect the health of our patients and communities, whether related to COVID-19 or not. When it comes to budget priorities, nothing should be higher on the list.
As always, I welcome your thoughts.