Healthcare industry is asking Michigan for $ 650 million to help address staff shortages exacerbated by COVID-19


The coronavirus pandemic has only exacerbated staff shortages in Michigan’s hospitals, long-term care facilities and emergency services in recent years.

To address the problem, health industry groups are calling on government leaders for $ 650 million to better recruit and retain health workers. The funds would go towards rewarding current frontline workers as well as scholarships to remove financial barriers and create incentives for future workers.

“With the support of our health and education partners, we’re asking lawmakers to fund a future for health care workers that will help ensure life-saving services continue across our state,” said Brian Peters, CEO of Michigan Health – and hospital association.

There were healthcare staff shortages prior to spring 2020 due to an aging workforce, but COVID-19 has escalated the problem. Today Peters said it had become “absolutely a crisis”.

In many healthcare facilities, the vacancy rate is 20% or more of the workforce, according to the MHA. A recent survey by the Health Care Association of Michigan found that 17% of long-term care facility workers had left their jobs since the pandemic began.

Similarly, ambulatory services have increased their typical annual turnover rate from 10% “to 25% and 30%,” according to the Michigan Association of Ambulance Services.

To counteract the staff shortage, hospitals and long-term care facilities have temporarily closed beds and wards in order to ensure adequate care for the patients. These remaining employees have also been regularly asked to take on additional shifts during the pandemic.

“Your journey has been incredibly difficult over this long period of time, with employees being pushed to the brink of mental and physical exhaustion,” said Melissa Samuel, president of the Health Care Association of Michigan. “They saw firsthand the loss and devastation caused by COVID-19, but they persevered.

“You faced this opportunity with greatness and compassion and need our help today.”

Related: Michigan Hospitals in “uncharted territory” as recent COVID surge drags on

On Thursday, November 4th, Peters and Samuel were among health care executives discussing the industry’s struggles and the Healthcare Workforce Sustainability Alliance’s proposal to address the bottlenecks. The group also included representatives from the Michigan Association of Ambulance Services, the Michigan Community College Association, and the American Nurses Association of Michigan.

The request: an investment of $ 650 million to meet staffing needs in hospitals, nursing homes and emergency services, as well as employee training programs to attract future employees.

A key part of the plan is a prospective health care worker scholarship program that provides two-year scholarships to individuals aspiring to graduate in a clinical health field. An estimated 25,000 students would qualify for these scholarships, which would provide payments to qualifying institutions.

“The state of our health system has a direct impact on the health of our future. We need life saving care and transportation, which means we need people who can provide these services, ”said Michael Hansen, president of the country’s Community College Association. “Building a pipeline for these jobs by incentivizing students to begin and afford these careers is absolutely necessary to ensure that our communities stay healthy and with adequate staff.”

The other key component is to reward the exhausted current caregivers who have worked during the pandemic. When asked why their employers aren’t raising their salaries or offering bonuses, Peters said hospitals across the country have been “financially decimated” by the pandemic.

“Our ability to do these things at short notice in order to pay all employees a significant increase is currently somewhat limited, and that is precisely why we are talking about this aid from a legislative initiative,” he said.

Related: Michigan hospitals weigh vaccine mandates against staff shortages as COVID cases rise

According to the MHA, the proposal was “shared with legislative leaders on both sides of the aisle as well as the administration, with the consistency of the feedback being that everyone understands the challenges related to health care workers”.

“There isn’t a single panacea, but this $ 650 million request that the MHA and our partner organizations are announcing today will go a long way toward meeting this critical challenge,” said Peters.

On Wednesday, November 3, Michigan hospitals treated 2,313 patients with confirmed or suspected cases of COVID-19. This is on top of the increasing number of non-COVID patients, many of whom delayed treatment during the pandemic and therefore came in worse conditions than they would normally have before the pandemic.

COVID patients make up 10.55% of adult inpatient beds, which is the 15th consecutive increase from week to week.

Read more on MLive:

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