The MHA conducted a virtual press conference Dec. 6 to discuss the economic and staffing challenges impacting hospitals across the state to generate awareness with lawmakers of these issues and the potential impact on access to timely, high-quality healthcare for Michiganders.
The event occurred while children’s hospitals continue to operate near capacity levels as they continue to care for a surge of children suffering from respiratory illnesses amid staffing shortages. Speakers also referenced how the loss of 1,700 staffed adult inpatient hospital beds across the state has led to longer wait times in the emergency department, reduced services and more difficulty transferring patients. Lastly, the point was made that no other industry is prevented from responding to inflationary pressures and growing expenses to the degree that healthcare is.
T. Anthony Denton, senior vice president and chief operating officer, University of Michigan Health System.
JJ Hodshire, president and chief executive officer, Hillsdale Hospital.
Dan Hurley, chief executive officer, Michigan Association of State Universities.
Brian Peters, chief executive officer, Michigan Health & Hospital Association.
Susan Smith, executive director, Economic Development Partnership of Hillsdale County.
Rudolph P. Valentini, chief medical officer at Children’s Hospital of Michigan, group chief medical officer at Detroit Medical Center.
Michigan’s hospitals are facing a funding crisis, putting communities and families across the state at risk of losing access to high-quality, timely healthcare. Health systems, business and university leaders are urging policymakers to address the crisis to avoid further reduction of available beds and access to care and healthcare services.
Michigan has lost a high of 1,700 staffed hospital beds since 2020 due to lack of staffing. This creates a cascade of problems, from longer wait times in the emergency department, reduced services, particularly in rural areas, and more difficulty transferring patients to the appropriate care setting. Respiratory illnesses are also surging, making problems worse.
“Recently, we have seen a surge in cases of respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), flu and COVID. This puts an additional pressure on emergency departments and our already-strained inpatient bed capacity across Michigan, impacting care statewide. Without funding to address staffing shortages, we run the risk of compromising our ability to provide the same level of exceptional care that we’re accustomed to across the state,” said T. Anthony Denton, senior vice president and chief operating officer, University of Michigan Health System and Michigan Health & Hospital Association board chair.
A 2021 Washington Post-Kaiser Family Foundation survey found that nearly 30% of healthcare workers are considering leaving their profession altogether. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects the need for 1.1 million new registered nurses nationwide by 2030, the Association of American Medical Colleges estimates two out of every five active physicians nationwide will be 65 or older within the next 10 years, and the nation faces a projected shortage of more than 3.2 million lower-wage healthcare workers such as medical assistants, home health aides and nursing assistants, according to a Mercer report.
“The overall health and prosperity of Michigan is inextricably tied to the state’s investment in its healthcare and higher education enterprises,” saidDaniel Hurley, CEO of the Michigan Association of State Universities. “Michigan’s public universities, together with our hospital and other healthcare partners, look forward to working with state leaders to ensure a future healthcare workforce that is capable of providing the highest levels of quality care for all Michiganders.”
The healthcare workforce shortage — combined with an aging population, a rise in chronic diseases and behavioral health conditions and advancements in medical care delivery — all contribute to an immediate need for resources that will allow hospitals to continue to provide the care residents need and deserve.
Despite staffing losses attributed to the COVID-19 pandemic, healthcare directly employed nearly 572,000 Michigan residents in 2020, continuing to make it the largest private-sector employer in the state. The 2022 Economic Impact of Healthcare in Michigan report found that direct healthcare workers in Michigan earned $44.2 billion in wages, salaries and benefits, with indirect, healthcare-supported workers earning about $28 billion wages, salaries and benefits.
“With healthcare being the largest private-sector employer, a healthy Michigan economy is directly linked to a properly funded healthcare system,” said Susan Smith, executive director, Economic Development Partnership of Hillsdale County. “Without access to healthcare services to support our communities, ranging from obstetrical units to trauma centers, we cannot remain economically competitive, attract or retain talent, or support placemaking for young families and care for everyone at all stages of life.”
Michigan officials have made recent short-term investments to address the hospital staffing crisis, but additional funding remains unappropriated that if used as intended, can improve hospital capacity and service lines. Michigan also needs a long-term funding solution to address stagnant reimbursement that has yet to respond to inflationary pressures to improve the retention of existing healthcare workers and recruit future workers to ensure that residents continue to have access to healthcare services.
Learn how you can help your local hospital or health system by visiting MiCareMatters.org.
“Hospitals have an immediate need for resources to continue to provide the services residents need and deserve – like ambulances available for lifesaving care,” said JJ Hodshire, president and chief executive officer, Hillsdale Hospital. “As a rural hospital, we excel at being innovative to make the best use of our resources, particularly staff. However, we can only stretch resources for so long. Everyone can agree that access to lifesaving emergency medical care is a basic need for Michiganders and residents should be able to receive specialized care no matter where they live.”
“My colleagues in pediatric units across the state have spent the past month responding to one of the worst respiratory illness surges I can remember as a physician and the biggest challenge to our ability to care for more children was our lack of available staff,” said Dr. Rudolph P. Valentini, chief medical officer, Children’s Hospital of Michigan and group chief medical offer at Detroit Medical Center. “We can’t afford to have another surge of sick, hospitalized children before something is done to improve the health of our hospitals and health systems.”
“Michigan residents deserve quality, accessible healthcare services and without hospital resources to adequately provide that care, Michigan hospitals have and will continue to face difficult decisions about what services they can offer,” said Brian Peters, chief executive officer, Michigan Health & Hospital Association.”
MIS-C most likely to Appear 2-5 Weeks after COVID-19 Surge
The 2021 COVID-19 spring surge in Michigan may be receding, which is welcome news for our state’s citizens. As children’s hospital leaders, we urge continued caution and use of public health measures: wear a mask appropriately (covering nose and mouth) per Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines, and practice good social distancing and hand hygiene always. Healthcare workers are stressed and exhausted. Every effort to avoid infection reduces the incidence of COVID-19 and helps keeps our families, friends and community members out of the hospital.
While we’re pleased to see the surge receding, an illness secondary to COVID-19 – multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children (MIS-C) – could become more prevalent as COVID-19 cases decline, and we want clinicians and families to be aware and prepared.
“It is important that parents and pediatricians are aware that the rare, but serious, MIS-C associated with COVID-19 could likely present in children between two and five weeks after the peak of Michigan’s recent surge of COVID-19,” said Dr. Matthew Hornik, president of the Michigan Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics. “This is based on analysis recently published in JAMA Pediatrics.”
Parents should be aware of MIS-C if their child was exposed to COVID-19 and later develops a fever without other explanation, and gastrointestinal symptoms (abdominal pain, vomiting, and/or diarrhea); rash or red eyes; and less commonly respiratory symptoms (cough, shortness of breath or chest pain/discomfort). Parents should seek emergency care right away if their child experiences any of the following warning signs:
Pain or pressure in the chest that does not go away
Inability to wake or stay awake
Pale, gray, or blue-colored skin, lips, or nail beds, depending on skin tone
Severe abdominal pain
MIS-C results from a delayed immune response to COVID-19. According to Dr. Rudolph Valentini, chief medical officer at Children’s Hospital of Michigan, “A child infected with COVID-19 may not exhibit any symptoms of the virus, then later present with MIS-C. Symptoms include fever, general inflammation, and dysfunction of major organs including the heart, gastrointestinal system and kidneys.”
Pediatricians should refer to interim guidance from the American Academy of Pediatrics for recognizing symptoms and providing care for MIS-C. Because most children are ineligible to currently receive the COVID-19 vaccine, it is imperative that individuals who are 16 years and older make every effort to get the vaccine to allow us to achieve herd immunity and help protect our vulnerable children from getting COVID-19 and potentially MIS-C.
“Many pediatric patients who develop MIS-C will need treatment in the hospital including frequent admission to a pediatric intensive care unit,” said Dr. Matthew Denenberg, vice president of medical affairs at Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital. “With the number of COVID-19 cases Michigan experienced in the past six weeks, we must be prepared that some number of children will present with MIS-C. If your child isn’t doing well, don’t delay getting care. Hospitals are safe and ready to help.”
Please contact your healthcare provider if you have questions or concerns regarding MIS-C. For more information about MIS-C in children, please refer to the CDC website on MIS-C.