The MHA received media coverage on the approval of COVID-19 vaccines for babies and toddlers, and staffing solutions being implemented by hospitals and health systems to address workforce challenges.
The Detroit News published a story June 18 following the approval of COVID-19 vaccines for children under five years old by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The story includes portions of a statement from MHA CEO Brian Peters on the importance of the decision.
“Widespread vaccination of children will go a long way towards reducing the number of pediatric patients hospitalized in Michigan’s hospitals with COVID-19, which over the last two years has led to over 8,000 pediatric hospitalizations in the state,” said Peters.
Crain’s Detroit Business also published an article June 20 looking at healthcare workforce sustainability in Michigan and the tactics being implemented by health systems throughout the state. Included is a quote from Peters on the demographic and talent pipeline issues that have contributed to workforce challenges.
“The reality is we knew even before the pandemic that we would have many people leaving the field,” said Peters. “Demographics aren’t on our side, and we’re simply not training enough nurses, doctors, pharmacists, whatever to replace all those retiring in the coming years.”
The following statement can be attributed to Brian Peters, CEO of the Michigan Health & Hospital Association.
The approval of COVID-19 vaccines for our country’s youngest children is a valuable milestone to celebrate as nearly every American is now eligible to receive the safe and effective vaccines. The vaccines continue to perform extremely well at protecting individuals from the severe effects of COVID-19, including hospitalization and death.
We highly encourage every parent in Michigan to consider vaccination for their babies and toddlers and to consult with their pediatrician if they have any questions. Widespread vaccination of children will go a long way towards reducing the number of pediatric patients hospitalized in Michigan’s hospitals with COVID-19, which over the last two years has led to over 8,000 pediatric hospitalizations in the state. One child hospitalized with these conditions is one too many and with the tools now available, we can do better.
As hospitals and health systems across Michigan continue communication efforts around COVID-19 and the importance of getting vaccinated this winter season, the MHA has developed a downloadable social media toolkit with posts and graphics for healthcare organizations to share across digital platforms. The toolkit includes content focused on the following topics:
“If you’re going through hell, keep going.” — Winston Churchill
Here are the facts, and they are not pretty: as we enter the final month of 2021, the situation confronting our Michigan hospitals is as dire as it has been since the start of the pandemic. A prolonged fourth surge has driven COVID-19 inpatient hospitalizations above 4,600 and ICU occupancy rates to nearly 90% — both metrics hovering near our all-time record highs. Michigan hospitals are also dealing with extraordinarily high volumes of non-COVID patients — likely the result of months of pent-up demand for healthcare from Michiganders who have delayed seeking treatment for a wide range of issues. Throughout the state, elective procedures are being deferred, emergency departments are placed on diversion, patients ready for discharge are stuck in hospital beds due to transportation shortages and wait times in emergency departments can often be measured in hours. As if this wasn’t enough, we are now beginning to see the first flu cases arrive in our hospitals, at the same time that the specter of yet another new COVID-19 variant looms on the horizon. In short, we’re going through hell.
Given this reality, it is no wonder that the significant workforce challenges that predated the pandemic have only gotten worse by the month (it doesn’t help that the rates of violence, either verbal or even physical, are increasing as patients and their families become impatient with longer wait times or visitor restrictions due to infection control protocols). Many of our caregivers have headed to jobs in other fields or retired altogether. The end result of this phenomenon: nationally, hospitals and health systems remain nearly 100,000 jobs below their pre-pandemic February 2020 peak. And here in Michigan we have approximately 800 fewer staffed hospital beds today than we did one year ago — in essence, this is the inpatient capacity equivalent of shuttering one of our largest hospitals. The workers who remain are facing unprecedented stress and fatigue. Already, three Department of Defense medical teams have been called in to provide staffing support to some of our hospitals. We welcome this support, but much more is needed.
However, Michigan’s healthcare community is coming together to advocate for solutions that address healthcare workforce sustainability in both the short and long term. Together with long-term care, medical transportation providers and higher education leaders, we are advocating for funding to support healthcare workforce staffing and growing the talent pipeline.
House Bill (HB) 5523 was introduced Dec. 8 and includes $300 million for healthcare workforce recruitment and retention payments. We are extremely appreciative of this appropriation and encourage lawmakers and the administration to quickly approve the funding for the healthcare workforce before the holiday break. Our communities depend on our hospitals both for life-saving treatment and as economic engines. An investment today will help set Michigan on a path forward to addressing this crisis.
In addition, first hearings were held Nov. 30 on HBs 5556 and 5557, which would allow community colleges to offer four-year bachelor of science in nursing degrees. The MHA supports this legislation that would improve the long-term nursing talent pipeline and would increase access to high-quality nurses in some areas served by Michigan’s small and rural hospitals where a four-year school does not currently exist.
At the MHA we have a mantra: “no data without stories, and no stories without data.” It takes both to move the needle on public opinion and, hence, public policy. We have heard countless stories about the current environment from nurses, doctors, hospital and health system leaders, patients and others. The stories range from insightful, to heartbreaking, to maddening. Now here is some compelling data, which points to what all Michiganders can do to help: 76% of COVID-19 hospital inpatients are unvaccinated, 87% in the ICU are unvaccinated and 88% on ventilators are unvaccinated. The data is clear; vaccines are safe and effective at preventing severe illness. It is quite literally the most powerful tool in our toolbox. While we recently surpassed 70% of the population age 16 and older receiving at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine, we have a long way to go on this front. The vaccine uptake among eligible children ages 5-11 now stands at just 16.2%, with large disparities existing between suburban communities and their rural and urban counterparts.
What we need to do to get out of this current COVID-19 surge is simple, and the message from our hospitals is clear: get vaccinated, have your children vaccinated and receive your booster dose when eligible. Adhere to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services mask advisory in large indoor gatherings. And if you do visit a healthcare facility, whether for a medical emergency or to accompany a loved one, please be patient and display some grace and empathy toward our healthcare workers. The pandemic is clearly not over, and they need your help and support now more than ever.
The following statement can be attributed to Brian Peters, CEO of the Michigan Health & Hospital Association.
On behalf of Michigan hospitals and health systems, we commend the Michigan House Appropriations Committee for introducing House Bill 5523 that includes vital funding for healthcare workers who have spent the past 21 months responding to a once-in-a-lifetime global pandemic. A healthcare workforce shortage existed prior to the pandemic and the pandemic has only made it worse. Today’s funding appropriation is a crucial step towards recognizing existing healthcare workers and providing hospitals with resources to improve recruitment and retention.
We also appreciate the additional funding priorities, including the creation of regional monoclonal antibody clinics, COVID-19 testing for schools and COVID-19 vaccine distribution. In particular, the infusion sites will improve accessibility for residents while reducing the burden placed on hospitals and their staff.
As this bill moves through the legislative process, we will continue to work with elected officials to express the importance of this funding to the healthcare workforce, who go to work every day to ensure our communities have access to care. Considering the current COVID-19 surge, this funding can’t come soon enough.
As Michigan continues to record high numbers of COVID-19 cases, new data from the Michigan Health & Hospital Association (MHA) proves that the majority of Michigan residents severely sick with COVID-19 are unvaccinated. The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) and MHA are pleading with residents to get vaccinated for their own health, the safety of Michigan’s health care personnel, and to avoid additional strain on health care systems that are already stretched and struggling to respond.
“The data is clear: if you are unvaccinated, you are risking hospitalization or death,” said Elizabeth Hertel, MDHHS director. “We have a safe and effective vaccine that is quite literally saving lives. Michigan residents absolutely need to get vaccinated to keep their loved ones safe this holiday.”
Based on recent data from most Michigan health systems, MHA has found that three out of four COVID patients are unvaccinated (76%), 87% of COVID ICU patients are unvaccinated and 88% of COVID ventilator patients are unvaccinated.
“Michigan’s health care systems are stretched beyond their limits – so much so that the U.S. Department of Defense is providing clinical staffing support to hospitals throughout the state that are operating at capacity, delaying nonemergency medical procedures and placing their emergency departments on diversion,” said Brian Peters, CEO of MHA. “This data confirms what the situation in our hospitals is already telling us: get vaccinated, whether it is your first dose, vaccination for your children or a booster dose.”
Michigan’s number of hospitalized COVID-19 cases reached a new high this week, with 4,291 patients hospitalized. Recently, Michigan reached 70% of residents 16 and older who have received their first vaccine dose, but cases are surging in the unvaccinated population.
MDHHS is monitoring for the COVID-19 omicron variant which has not been detected in the state. Residents are advised that the presence of variants makes it even more important to get vaccinated, including the booster doses to increase protection, wear masks, and take other precautions.
In addition to getting vaccinated and wearing masks – particularly indoors and in crowded areas – other things people can do to protect themselves and their loved ones include:
Getting tested for COVID-19, especially before gatherings.
Physically distancing from others and avoiding crowds
Washing hands frequently with soap and water and cleaning hands with alcohol-based hand rub.
Covering your mouth and nose with a bent elbow or tissue when you cough or sneeze
Self-isolating until you recover if you develop symptoms or test positive for COVID-19.
MDHHS has issued a public health advisory that all Michiganders, regardless of vaccination status, should wear a mask in indoor public settings and those who are not fully vaccinated or who are immunocompromised should avoid large crowds or gatherings.
The following statement is made on behalf of chief medical officers of Michigan’s community hospitals.
One year ago, Michigan faced a frightening increase in COVID-19 cases as the winter holidays approached. In response to Gov. Whitmer’s call for limits on social gatherings, we collectively followed responsible and proven measures that reduced the spread of COVID-19, saved lives and protected our state’s healthcare system.
For the 2021 holiday season we are already approaching the highest number of COVID-19 hospitalizations in Michigan since the pandemic began. As of Sunday, Nov. 21, 3,785 COVID-19 patients were hospitalized, including 784 in our intensive care units (ICUs). The vast majority of patients in the ICU and on ventilators are unvaccinated. In addition to these high numbers of COVID-19 patients requiring emergency care and hospitalization, we are seeing high numbers of patients with other medical conditions requiring care. This combination is straining or exceeding the capacity of emergency departments and hospitals across the state. We cannot wait any longer for Michigan to correct course; we need your help now to end this surge and ensure our hospitals can care for everyone who needs it.
Across the state, resilient and dedicated healthcare workers in hospitals stand ready to care for emergency medical needs, but the reality is most hospitals throughout the state have more patients in their emergency departments than they do available rooms and staff to care for them. This results in long wait times, patients being placed in hallways or conference rooms, and diverting patients away from a hospital because there is no physical room or medical staff available to accept more patients.
You may have seen reports that some hospitals are at a pandemic level red — which indicates the highest level in that facility’s emergency preparedness plan. We are extremely concerned because our best predictions are that COVID-19 patients will continue to increase during the weeks ahead as we enter the yearly flu season. At the same time, the need for care for heart disease, cancer and other diseases will continue at some of the highest rates we’ve seen in recent history.
The evidence shows that patients who receive monoclonal antibody therapy early have markedly lower rates of hospitalization and complications from COVID-19. Many hospitals have reprioritized staff and resources from ambulatory services such as testing, outpatient treatment or rehab to free up caregivers to dispense monoclonal antibody therapy and vaccines in the hope of reducing hospitalization and death. While these actions may lead to longer wait times for ambulatory services, it is important that patients who meet the criteria seek out monoclonal antibody therapy to reduce the chance of a hospital stay.
As the chief medical representatives of the healthcare systems in Michigan, we are asking all Michigan residents to recognize the following:
Hospitals are operating at contingency levels of care, which means waiting times are longer and staffing shortages are now the norm and not an exception.
This situation is a result of our ongoing pandemic response, the serious illness of non-COVID-19 patients, the increased length of stay of all patients, and the resulting high number of patients in Michigan hospitals.
Just as hospitals and the staff working inside are and have been working at capacity, our emergency medical services (EMS) are also stressed and overworked. There may be times when capacity in the system is not adequate to accommodate the usual response and speed of transport, especially for out-of-area transfers.
If the pressure on hospitals and EMS increases further, we all risk facing increasing delays and challenges in accessing care for everyone who needs emergency services and inpatient hospital care.
Knowing this situation, we call on everyone to do their part to lessen the pressure on the healthcare system:
If you are not already vaccinated, get your vaccine right away or complete your vaccine series. Find a location for vaccination at vaccine.gov. The evidence shows vaccines are effective at keeping people out of the hospital and off ventilators. Vaccines are free and available to those ages 5 and up at many pharmacies, doctors’ offices and health departments across the state.
If you are vaccinated, get a booster dose of vaccine, which is now approved for everyone ages 18 and above.
If you have questions about the vaccines, please reach out to your medical provider.
Carefully consider where you seek healthcare. A primary care office, virtual visit or urgent care may be the best accommodation as hospital and emergency departments are seeing high demand. Despite this, for emergency conditions such as stroke symptoms, chest pain, difficulty breathing or significant injury, you should still seek emergency care. Know that emergency departments are doing all they can to provide safe and timely access.
Practice physical distance at indoor events and gatherings, including the use of face masks and other protection.
If you are aware of a potential COVID-19 exposure, get tested and limit your interaction with others until you have a negative test and/or have passed the recommended quarantine period.
Recognize that hospital and EMS staff are shorthanded and under extreme pressure. Extend patience and thoughtfulness to those who are working the hardest to support and care for our family members and friends.
Our healthcare teams have worked tirelessly for the past 20 months to serve every community in our state. Now more than ever, they need your support.
MLive published an article Nov. 3 on the approval of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for children ages 5 to 11 from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The article quotes MHA CEO Brian Peters on the value of the approval when it comes to protecting younger children from severe infection and reducing the overall spread of the disease.
“At a time when children’s hospitals throughout Michigan are strained due to high rates of respiratory illness, this approval will keep children safe and help reduce the burden on our hospitals and allow them to focus on their patients with non-COVID illnesses,” said Peters.
The following statement can be attributed to Brian Peters, CEO of the Michigan Health & Hospital Association.
The approval today of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for children ages 5 to 11 from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is another significant milestone in combatting the spread of COVID-19. The new vaccine eligibility not only protects younger children from severe infection but reduces the likelihood of younger children infecting other vulnerable populations with the disease.
At a time when children’s hospitals throughout Michigan are strained due to high rates of respiratory illness, this approval will keep children safe and help reduce the burden on our hospitals and allow them to focus on their patients with non-COVID illnesses.
We encourage parents to contact their child’s physician office, their local health department or preferred health system for any questions they have and to schedule a vaccine appointment.
“We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.”― Oscar Wilde
Throughout Michigan, hospitals are critical to their communities not only because of the services they perform, but because of their role as leading employers as well. Regardless of where you live, you very likely know someone who works in a community hospital or in the healthcare field. In fact, in 2018 one in every five employed people in Michigan were in positions directly or indirectly related to healthcare. In total, hospitals in our state provide 234,000 jobs, supporting family members, neighbors and other local businesses. Taken as a whole, healthcare provides more jobs than automotive manufacturing and education combined; as a result, when healthcare operations are impacted, there is a clear trickle-down impact throughout an entire community.
With a death toll that just passed the 20,000 mark, it is no secret that the COVID-19 pandemic has had a profound detrimental impact on the health of Michigan communities and has battered healthcare workers physically and mentally. The most pressing challenge today for the leaders of our member hospitals and health systems is clear: workforce sustainability — in other words, how to best support the front-line caregivers who are working so hard to provide care to our patients and communities and how to recruit and retain enough healthcare professionals to continue providing this care into the future.
Our hospitals are operating at near-capacity levels due to high volumes of non-COVID-19 patients, many of whom delayed seeking care during the pandemic and are now presenting in the emergency department with higher acuity, requiring higher levels of care and longer lengths of stay. These patients are members of their local communities, serving as business owners, employees and customers. Much as hospitals are stretched thin due to higher volumes and limited staffing, so are our local businesses. The bottom line: hospital operations, public health, and economic vitality are all inextricably linked in our communities.
Businesses of all stripes have been stretched to their limits over the past year and a half. From food service and hospitality to retail, manufacturing, academia and beyond, whole industries have been severely impacted by the pandemic due to supply and staffing shortages. While serving on the Michigan Economic Recovery Council during the beginning of the pandemic, I learned from some of Michigan’s top business leaders how significant the impacts were to their workforce, operations and bottom line. Many businesses have had to react by postponing specific service lines or production, reducing hours of operation, increasing prices or all the above. But there is one significant difference between our situation today as compared to the earlier stages of the pandemic: we now have a powerful tool in our toolbox that is proven to work and can help accelerate our return to normalcy. Of course, I am referring to the COVID-19 vaccine.
Besides the obvious motivation to protect yourself from serious illness, hospitalization and death by following public health guidance and receiving the vaccine, there is a need to do so for the economic vibrancy of your local community. Regardless of political views, I can confidently say we all have shared goals of wanting to see our communities thrive, our children in school and our businesses profitable. When it comes to treating and preventing disease, we always look toward our healthcare experts to guide us on a path to recovery. The MHA Board of Trustees, as well as the clinical leaders within our membership, are unequivocally united when it comes to the importance of vaccinations and appropriate masking. We know these tools work, and the evidence from hospitalizations during Michigan’s spring and existing surges prove it, as the older age groups with the higher vaccination levels experienced smaller increases in hospitalizations than younger age cohorts. In fact, approximately 99% of all COVID-19 deaths have been unvaccinated individuals.
I’ve said this publicly for over a year, and I will say it again: whether a local, state or federal public health mandate exists or not, it does not change the fact that receiving a vaccine, wearing a mask, staying home when sick and practicing proper hygiene are the right things to do. Each of these measures reduces the risk of passing on a highly contagious and deadly virus and saves lives. What it also does is lead us closer to economic prosperity for our communities and allows our businesses to focus on what they do best. Our country’s forefathers established core democratic values as our society’s fundamental beliefs. Included is the common good, where we all should work together for the good of all. It is time we remember this principle for the betterment of our communities and economies.