During the holiday season and into the new year, activity has continued related to the novel coronavirus and vaccines to protect against it, including the emergency use authorization and subsequent distribution of the Moderna vaccine. The MHA keeps members apprised of pandemic-related developments affecting hospitals through email updates and the MHA Coronavirus webpage. Important updates are outlined below.
Legislation, Policies Enacted to Fight COVID-19
The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) announced Jan. 6 that additional Michiganders can be vaccinated against COVID-19 beginning Jan. 11, including residents 65 and over; police officers, first responders, front-line state and federal workers and jail and prison staff; and pre-K-12 teachers and childcare providers. The MHA issued a media statement following the announcement.
Joneigh Khaldun, MD, the state’s chief medical executive, advised that seniors and essential workers should contact their local health department (LHD) to seek an appointment for the vaccine. Hospitals that have operational capacity and enough vaccine to vaccinate seniors are encouraged to do so, as many LHDs lack the capacity to serve this large population. The MHA advises all hospitals to issue local media/social media information making clear whether they will vaccinate seniors and essential workers and any details on how to make an appointment to receive the vaccine.
In a Jan. 8 news conference, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced that her administration would like all Michigan K-12 schools to prepare to offer in-person learning on or before March 1. A rationale document was issued as part of the announcement, which includes explanations of the risks and safety of in-person learning, impact on those kept at home and their parents/guardians, and more. Members should be aware of this policy change as it may positively impact staffing challenges.
The governor signed Senate Bill (SB) 748 Dec. 30, providing supplemental appropriations for various priorities. While the governor vetoed some items, the MHA’s priorities on healthcare funding were approved. The items the governor and Legislature agreed upon included $10 million to reimburse Michigan hospitals for temporary staffing needs during COVID-19, $17 million to reimburse hospitals for the high cost of remdesivir treatments for patients, and $3.3 million to reimburse hospitals for holding and caring for nursing home patients beyond when they need hospital care. The MHA will work with policymakers as these funding items are implemented and keep members informed on how they may access these reimbursements.
The governor also signed into law two bills the MHA supported and advocated for during the legislative lame-duck session. SB 1258 amended Public Act 238 of 2020 to provide additional flexibilities regarding updated federal guidelines on timing for COVID-19-positive employees and potential exposures. The MHA will continue to seek further clarification from the MDHHS regarding similarities between COVID-19 symptoms and vaccine side effects. SB 1021 makes permanent in state law the flexibilities that allow Canadian health professionals to practice in Michigan.
The period for the governor to sign several bills reforming Michigan’s Certificate of Need (CON) process expired Jan. 6, effectively vetoing the bills. The legislation included several reforms that would have increased covered capital expenditures from $3.3 million to $10 million, added two members to the commission, and removed air ambulance as a covered service in June 2021. The MHA took a neutral position on an additional provision that was vetoed, which would have removed inpatient psychiatric services from CON in counties with populations less than 40,000. Members with questions on state legislation should contact Adam Carlson at the MHA.
Vaccine Distribution Updates
Vials of the Pfizer vaccine often contain a sixth dose that can be used to protect against COVID-19. However, the initial supply kits provided with the vaccine contained only five needles, which has caused some hospitals to experience needle shortages. The American Hospital Association has advised Operation Warp Speed (OWS) officials of these shortages, and OWS plans to increase the number of needles, syringes and other supplies in the kits to correspond with the available dosages in the vials. Members experiencing vaccine supply kit shortages should contact Adam Carlson at the MHA for assistance.
In an apparent response to a letter from the governors of eight states, including Michigan, the transition team for President-elect Joe Biden said it plans to release to states most of the COVID-19 vaccine being held by the federal government once Biden’s administration is in place after Jan. 20. The current stance of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention is to hold back 50% of all vaccine supply to later ship second doses to providers. The Biden team states that it will work with manufacturers to ensure second doses are available for Americans. The MHA will work with its state and federal partners and elected officials to identify how this will affect hospitals’ vaccine allotments in Michigan and procedures for ordering doses. The association will provide updates as it obtains more information.
The MDHHS recently indicated that hospitals wishing to set up vaccine clinics at external venues need to follow the guidelines of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for quality assurance, storage, electrical, etc. Hospitals do not need to submit COVID-19 vaccine provider enrollment applications for sites that afford space to run mass vaccination efforts, such as hospital-owned/affiliated parking lots or properties or community-based venues. Any off-site clinic should provide guidelines that allow hospitals to do the required data entry, maintain cold storage and prevent wasted vaccine.
The MHA is working with the state and other partners to help hospitals overcome barriers and use opportunities in the vaccination process. To support those advocacy efforts, members are urged to complete a five-minute vaccine barrier survey by 5 p.m. Jan 11. Each hospital’s vaccine coordinator who leads the organization’s COVID-19 vaccine efforts should complete the survey.
The MHA is working daily with state officials to improve vaccine communication, information, transparency, coordination of roles and more. In addition, the association will work more closely with the Michigan Association for Local Public Health to ensure information is consistent across all health departments and hospitals/health systems. Members with vaccine questions may contact Ruthanne Sudderth at the MHA.
Additional information on the COVID-19 pandemic is available to members on the MHA Community Site and the MHA COVID-19 webpage. 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: