Michigan Hospital Chief Medical Officers Urge Public to Help Address Alarming COVID-19 Situation


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.

Headline Roundup: Week of Nov. 15 for COVID-19 in Michigan

covid cell

The MHA has been actively fielding and responding to media requests related to the growth in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, hospital capacity and healthcare workforce sustainability.

Below is a collection of headlines from around the state that include statements from the MHA.

Sunday, Nov. 21

Thursday, Nov. 18

Wednesday, Nov. 17

Tuesday, Nov. 16

Monday, Nov. 15

Members with questions on COVID-19 efforts and resources should contact Ruthanne Sudderth, and any questions regarding media requests should be directed to John Karasinski at the MHA.

Headline Roundup: Week of Nov. 8 for COVID-19 in Michigan

covid cell

The MHA has been actively fielding and responding to media requests related to the growth in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, hospital capacity and healthcare workforce sustainability.

Below is a collection of headlines from around the state that include statements from the MHA.

Sunday, Nov. 14

Friday, Nov. 12

Thursday, Nov. 11

Wednesday, Nov. 10

Members with questions on COVID-19 efforts and resources should contact Ruthanne Sudderth, and any questions regarding media requests should be directed to John Karasinski at the MHA.

Media Join Healthcare Workforce Sustainability Alliance Press Conference

MHA CEO Brian Peters

MHA CEO Brian PetersThe MHA conducted Nov. 4 a virtual press conference announcing the Healthcare Workforce Sustainability Alliance, a newly formed partnership with the Health Care Association of Michigan (HCAM), the Michigan Association of Ambulance Services (MAAS), the Michigan Community College Association (MCCA) and the American Nurses Association of Michigan (ANA-MI). The press conference featured Michigan healthcare and education leaders advocating for a $650 million investment to support staffing needs in hospitals, nursing facilities and emergency medical services and workforce training programs to grow the healthcare talent pipeline.

Speakers included:

  • MHA CEO Brian Peters.
  • HCAM President/CEO Melissa Samuel.
  • MAAS Executive Director Angela Madden.
  • MCCA President Michael Hansen.

Over a dozen media outlets from across the state joined the call, including MLive, Detroit Free Press, The Detroit News, Michigan Radio, MiBiz, The Center Square and Gongwer. Stories from these publications and more were widely syndicated throughout Michigan.

Following the press conference, a press release was distributed to statewide media echoing the remarks made during the event.

Members with questions on advocacy and workforce sustainability efforts should contact Adam Carlson, and any questions regarding media requests should be directed to John Karasinski at the MHA.

Newly Formed Healthcare, Education Alliance Calls for Historic Investment in Staffing and Talent Development

Healthcare Workforce Sustainability Alliance Logo

Healthcare Workforce Sustainability Alliance LogoMichigan leaders advocate for a $650 million supplemental to support medical services, workforce pipeline

A newly formed coalition – the Healthcare Workforce Sustainability Alliance – has released a plan more than 19 months into the pandemic calling upon Michigan’s elected officials to address the emerging crisis of a shortage of healthcare workers to provide lifesaving medical care.

The Michigan Health & Hospital Association (MHA) in collaboration with the Health Care Association of Michigan (HCAM), Michigan Association of Ambulance Services (MAAS), Michigan Community College Association (MCCA), and American Nurses Association of Michigan (ANA-MI) are advocating for a $650 million investment to support staffing needs in hospitals, nursing facilities, and emergency medical services and workforce training programs to grow the healthcare talent pipeline.

“Michigan healthcare workers are the essential responders to the COVID-19 pandemic and, unfortunately, the healthcare staffing shortage that existed pre-pandemic has become significantly worse in recent months,” said Brian Peters, CEO of the MHA. “Staffing at our hospitals is absolutely a crisis. With the support of our partners in the healthcare and education sectors, we are pleading with our Legislature to fund a future for the healthcare workforce that will help ensure lifesaving services are able to continue across our state.”

The Healthcare Workforce Sustainability Alliance is calling upon the Michigan Legislature to pass a $650 million supplemental to recruit and retain healthcare workers and a scholarship program to establish a workforce pipeline. The proposed Healthcare Worker Payments would be directed to healthcare front-line workers and health facility employees.

“The shortage of Michigan EMS heroes is getting worse by the day, and we desperately need more paramedics and EMTs in the field,” said Angela Madden, executive director of the Michigan Association of Ambulance Services. “The lack of training options has become a crisis for EMS and we’re proud to work with our fellow healthcare partners to help get more workers into healthcare fields quickly.”

The Future Healthcare Worker Scholarship Program would be designed to provide two years of scholarships to individuals pursuing a degree in a clinical healthcare field. The Future Healthcare Worker Scholarship Program would provide payments at qualifying institutions. Based upon estimates of eligible Michigan residents, grant amounts and years in the program, it is estimated that as many as 25,000 students would qualify for and could take advantage of the Future Healthcare Worker Scholarship Program.

“The state of our healthcare system has a direct impact on the health of our future. We need lifesaving care and transport, which means we need people able to provide those services,” said Michael Hansen, president of the MCCA. “Establishing a pipeline for these jobs by incentivizing students to go into and afford these careers is absolutely necessary to ensuring our communities stay healthy and appropriately staffed.”

Michigan hospitals have reached new record-high occupancy rates, requiring staff scheduling and capacity adjustments several times daily to preserve patient care standards. For many healthcare facilities, vacancy rates are 20% or more of their workforce. Patients experience delays of sometimes several days waiting for transport between a hospital and a nursing home, inpatient psychiatric hospital or rehabilitation facility due to the shortage of qualified paramedics. Some hospitals must regularly divert ambulances away from their emergency departments, which delays emergent care, especially in Michigan’s many rural areas.

“Working in long-term care is a calling, a fulfilling career that gives people a purpose,” said Melissa Samuel, president and CEO of HCAM. “Caregivers who have served on the front lines of a health crisis the world has not experienced in 100 years need and deserve our support. The pandemic has made an expected shortage of healthcare workers happen sooner and to a much worse degree. New admissions to skilled nursing facilities are being limited or halted because providers are taking a proactive measure to focus their care on current residents. We must address this workforce crisis to ensure our seniors have access to the care they need.”

Healthcare workforce staffing shortages existed prior to COVID-19 but have worsened and are expected to persist beyond the pandemic. Michigan must address both the short- and the long-term workforce crisis that is driving this problem before it forces even more difficult healthcare decisions. Contrary to the early support shown to healthcare workers in the beginning months of the pandemic, a 2021 survey has found that 34% of nurses reported experiencing workplace violence, which can lead to higher rates of burnout.

More detail about the Healthcare Workforce Sustainability Alliance’s $650 million plan will be available at www.mha.org as the group continues to work with policymakers.


MHA CEO Report — Our Strategic Action Plan

MHA Rounds Report - Brian Peters, MHA CEO

Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them humanity cannot survive.

— Dalai Lama XIV

MHA Rounds Report - Brian Peters, MHA CEO

At the beginning of every MHA program year (which officially kicks off every July 1), in close consultation with our MHA Board Chair and Board of Trustees, we develop a “strategic action plan” that serves as a road map for our important efforts over the coming 12 months. While the process involved in crafting the 2021-2022 plan was very similar to prior years, the environment was anything but.

One thing every Michigander surely has in common: we are all eager to see a significant decline in COVID-19-related positivity rates, hospitalizations, morbidity and mortality, and the unprecedented disruption brought about by the pandemic. Every day, we closely examine the data and – equally important – the real-time stories from the administrative leaders and clinicians in our member hospitals and health systems throughout the state. As I write this report, we unfortunately remain mired in a pandemic that simply will not fully release its grip. Hospital beds are filling up with both COVID-19 patients (over 2,000 as of today) as well as patients who likely delayed seeking treatment for a range of other, non-COVID-19 issues. Supply chain issues persist, and clinical and nonclinical staffing challenges are as severe as ever. Any notion that we are out of the woods is misguided; we must remain as vigilant as when the pandemic began.

Against that backdrop, our action plan has been designed with our association mission in mind: we advance the health of individuals and communities. The following synopsis represents just a few highlights:

  • Policy and Advocacy: Our hospitals and their front-line caregivers need fair and adequate funding support now more than ever. Our priorities here include full funding for the Healthy Michigan Plan (our Medicaid expansion plan which now covers over 950,000 Michiganders), pools that protect access in rural communities and obstetrical care, graduate medical education, and the preservation of our robust provider tax program and Medicaid payment rates. We successfully achieved all of these objectives in the budget that just began Oct. 1; in addition, the budget includes new special appropriations specific to hospitals, including $3 million to fund the stroke/STEMI system of care to mirror the trauma system; ensured a continuation of the direct care worker increase at long-term care facilities to $2.35/hour; raised ground ambulance service reimbursement to the highest possible rate, valued at $54 million; and extended funding for 12 months of Medicaid coverage postpartum to improve maternal and infant health. As soon as one budget is finalized, the planning and negotiations begin for the next – and we are already gearing up to do right by our members and the patients they serve.
  • Workforce Sustainability: We must find ways to remove unnecessary barriers that prevent the recruitment and education of qualified individuals, and we must provide our healthcare workforce with the critical assistance they need to continue caring for and supporting our communities. In the short term, the MHA has formed both a Human Resources Council and a Human Resources Subcommittee of the MHA Service Corporation Board of Directors to convene leaders in the field to closely monitor the staffing crisis and provide guidance on our emerging efforts. This is an “all-hands-on-deck” affair for the association and will be on the agendas of every MHA council, committee and task force this year. In the days and weeks ahead, you will hear more about our very specific request related to healthcare workforce sustainability in the state budget supplemental process – just one aspect of a multiprong strategy that will also include regulatory flexibility, a renewed push to join the multistate nurse licensure compact, immigration policies, expanding scope of practice, virtual health, and addressing workplace violence and burnout.
  • COVID-19: The MHA will also continue to respond to immediate COVID-19 issues, which includes continuing to promote the effectiveness and safety of vaccines. Our vaccine focus areas will also move toward third doses and boosters, childhood vaccination for those ages 5-11, federal mandates for employers and healthcare providers, and flu vaccines. The MHA will also continue to work closely with the American Hospital Association on ensuring the federal mandates provide consistency between the upcoming Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services and Occupational Safety and Health Administration rules on how the federal mandates will be enforced for hospitals.
  • Behavioral Health: The MHA has already requested $125 million to expand inpatient pediatric capacity and improve psychiatric services in the emergency department, where far too many patients have been treated due to a lack of suitable alternative psychiatric care settings and providers. We are engaging in the public policy process to make sure that those Michiganders in desperate need of behavioral health services will ultimately have access to compassionate, high-quality care.
  • Health Equity: I am proud that all Michigan hospitals and health systems have signed on to our Board-approved pledge to address racism and health inequities. Through information gained from the Health Equity Organizational Assessment (completed by 113 hospitals to date), we will now identify and implement meaningful and actionable steps to address gaps and disparities in care to support the unique needs of individuals and local communities, particularly those that are underserved.

Other important priorities in this year’s action plan include the preservation of a robust certificate of need program, prevention of harmful nurse staffing ratio legislation, development of new data collection and analysis opportunities, safety and quality improvement, physician integration and cybersecurity.

To successfully achieve all the action plan priorities – as well as effectively respond to the “wild-card” events that inevitably occur during the program year – will require all arms of our organization: our traditional trade association, our 501(c)(3) MHA Health Foundation and MHA Keystone Center, and our for-profit MHA Service Corporation and Endorsed Business Partners.  We are fortunate to have such a strong platform from which to launch our current and future efforts.

There is no doubt that the pandemic has been the biggest disruptor in my professional career. In an ecosystem that was already becoming more integrated, value-driven and transparent, the pandemic exposed all the inherent weaknesses within American healthcare delivery. Yet, throughout the past 20 months, the MHA staff and members have demonstrated our resolve and resiliency. As a result, I have full confidence that at the conclusion of this program year, we will be able to demonstrate strong success on our strategic action plan objectives and, accordingly, will have positioned hospitals to improve the health and wellness of their communities. And we will do so with love and compassion.

As always, I welcome your thoughts.

Media Recap: Price Transparency & Staffing Crisis

The MHA responded to several media requests the week of Oct. 25 that focused on hospital price transparency and the on-going staffing crisis.

The Detroit News published Oct. 24 a story on the staffing shortage impacting EMS workers and touched on the staffing crisis impacting hospitals. MHA CEO Brian Peters is quoted in the story discussing the lack of availability of transport for patients to lower levels of care, resulting in increased cost and strain to the healthcare system.

“They are in crisis mode,” said Peters. “These are not only front-line clinical staff who are in short supply, but also non-clinical staff. … We are struggling on both counts.”

The MHA also provided statements to stories published by Crain’s Detroit Business and WXYZ Detroit on the federal price transparency rule.

“In addition, there is ambiguity within the final rule that has left hospitals to interpret the level and detail of pricing information that should be provided to consumers,” said the statement published by Crain’s. “Hospitals and health systems are working diligently to comply with federal policies in their release of information.”

Members with questions on COVID-19 efforts and resources should contact Ruthanne Sudderth, and any questions regarding media requests should be directed to John Karasinski at the MHA.

Week of Sept. 27 Media Recap

The MHA responded to several media requests the week of Sept. 27 that focused on the signing of the fiscal year 2022 state budget by Gov. Whitmer and the healthcare workforce crisis.

The Center Square published Sept. 29 a story on the signing of the budget that included a portion of a media statement from MHA CEO Brian Peters.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has challenged hospitals throughout the state and, on behalf of our members, we commend Gov. Whitmer for signing today a state budget that continues vital funding sources for our hospitals, increases support for direct care workers and ambulance services, and maintains extended Medicaid coverage for mothers up to 12 months postpartum,” said Peters. “We extend equal appreciation to both the Legislature and Gov. Whitmer and her administration for passing a budget on time that maintains access to care throughout Michigan.”

The MHA contributed to a story published Sept. 27 by Bridge Michigan that looks at the potential of using overseas healthcare personnel to address the existing national healthcare workforce shortage.

Members with questions on COVID-19 efforts and resources should contact Ruthanne Sudderth, and any questions regarding media requests should be directed to John Karasinski at the MHA.