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Source: United States House of Representatives – Congressman Jack Bergman (MI-1)

Today, Rep. Jack Bergman sent a letter to Governor Whitmer, highlighting the critical situation hospitals are facing in rural Michigan, and urging her to work with the healthcare providers in Michigan’s First District to come up with a plan to safely reopen our hospitals for non-emergency medical services and treatments. 

Cutting all non-emergency treatments and procedures has caused hospital revenues to be reduced by more than half statewide. These effects are even more severe in Northern Michigan and the Upper Peninsula, as elective and nonemergency procedures can make up to 80% of revenue for local hospitals.

A 2019 analysis found that 18 rural hospitals in Michigan were at high risk of closing even before the onset of the current pandemic. Many of these hospitals are the only medical provider available in their counties – meaning that their closure would leave thousands of Michiganders without access to treatment if needed. As of April 30th, more than half of inpatient and ICU beds in Northern Michigan and the Upper Peninsula were not in use. There is capacity to safely reopen non-emergency treatments and procedures while effectively managing the COVID-19 pandemic.

You can read the full letter here or below.

Dear Governor Whitmer,

The ongoing COVID-19 emergency places unique challenges on the healthcare providers in Northern Michigan and the Upper Peninsula. Under the current realities, we must not forget the needs of rural and remote providers as the state continues its response to the pandemic.

Even before the onset of this crisis, many healthcare providers in Northern Michigan and the U.P. were operating on shoe-string budgets. With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent cancellation of elective procedures and non-urgent clinical visits, our hospitals and health centers have been forced into a financial crisis. Many providers have reported that they only have days of operational funds left – jeopardizing their ability to maintain critical health services during this ongoing outbreak. Additionally, providers throughout Northern Michigan and the U.P. have experienced severe shortages in Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and limited access to testing for COVID-19, especially rapid diagnostic test kits.

To date, Northern Michigan and the U.P. have not seen the widespread infection rates compared to areas in lower Michigan, in part due to successful social distancing and the rural and remote nature of our communities. However, hospitals and health centers throughout the region continue to lose funds while most of their procedures and services remain on hold indefinitely. I have also heard from constituents who are facing increased uncertainty as treatments like regular cancer screenings have been halted. Changes must be made to protect the health of those in Michigan’s First District and ensure the financial wellbeing of our healthcare providers.

I therefore request that the state work with healthcare providers to create a plan to allow for non-emergency medical services and treatments. By working with local providers and ensuring necessary precautions are taken, a balance can be found between minimizing the risk of COVID-19 and addressing the healthcare needs of Northern Michigan and the Upper Peninsula.

Precautions must also be in place to ensure providers in the First District have adequate access to PPE should they see a sudden increase in patients as statewide restrictions begin to lift. I additionally request the state increase availability of rapid diagnostic tests to providers in rural and remote areas – especially so they may be used for the healthcare professionals and first responders that are on the front lines of this crisis.

Healthcare providers in Northern Michigan and the Upper Peninsula are facing unique challenges and limitations that, if not addressed, threaten the health and livelihoods of our citizens. Thank you for your work to protect the health of Michiganders in Northern Michigan and the Upper Peninsula. My entire staff and I stand ready to assist you in these efforts in any way we can. I am standing-by and ready to discuss this urgent situation at your earliest convenience.