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Bridge Michigan
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Opinion | We provide care when you need it most. But now, we need your help.

When your loved ones leave our care on a path to recovery or with a solid plan for treatment in place we celebrate with you. When you face devastating news or a frightening diagnosis, our hearts break along with yours. Through it all, caring for your wellbeing is our daily passion and commitment — our reason for being.

T. Anthony Denton
T. Anthony Denton, J.D., MHSA is the chair of the Michigan Health and Hospital Association Board of Trustees and senior vice-president and chief environmental, social and governance officer of University of Michigan Health-Michigan Medicine. (Courtesy photo)

As senior vice-president of University of Michigan Health, I have seen firsthand the critical role healthcare providers and hospitals assume in providing safe and high-quality care to communities. Our teams walk alongside patients and families in their toughest moments, and now, I ask that you take the journey with us as Michigan’s healthcare industry faces one of its most daunting challenges yet.

Due to so many direct and ripple effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, our state’s healthcare system is in crisis. Our hospitals and healthcare systems are struggling for many reasons, including inadequate funding. Michigan has lost a high of about 1,700 staffed hospital beds since 2020. That means there are already 1,700 fewer opportunities for Michiganders to access inpatient hospital care. 

Healthcare workforce challenges which existed before the pandemic became more acute over the past year with accelerated retirements and others choosing to leave the industry. These events have happened in parallel, coinciding with the rising demand for care and cost inflation. Michigan Hospitals reported spending $1.1 billion more on labor in 2022 compared to 2020.

These are all serious issues that require daily attention by all of us to address on behalf of our citizens across this great state. Access to quality healthcare is a basic human right. Hospitals are community assets, available on a 24 hour/7-day schedule, year-round. When hospitals are underfunded, it leads to less capacity, overcrowding and longer wait times. It also increases the stress and pressure on our resilient healthcare teams who deliver high quality care every day. This is especially concerning in rural or underserved areas of our state where hospitals may be the only source of medical care for hundreds of miles.

Proper hospital funding is essential to ensure hospitals can continue to provide the best care to the communities they serve, for all Michiganders. This includes funding for medical equipment, hiring and retaining skilled medical professionals, and investing in new pipelines to train and recruit new caregivers for when each of us become patients, as we surely will.

In addition to providing essential medical care, hospitals also play a vital role in the economic health of our communities. As anchor institutions that not only provide care and healing, hospitals are also major sources of employment and contributors to local businesses, making them an important part of our economic infrastructure. Healthcare is the leading employer industry in Michigan, contributing to 1.1 million jobs in our state.

Michigan leaders must address the funding crisis facing our healthcare systems. Adequate funding is vital to ensure our healthcare professionals can continue to be there for you and your loved ones. Funding is vital so that local communities across our state continue to be places where people want to live, work and have the opportunity to enjoy their best health.

We have a new legislature, a significant state funding surplus and our state’s top industry in crisis. We need to consider all possible short- and long-term solutions to the problems facing healthcare in Michigan.  

I believe in the power of quality healthcare — care that treats the whole person, with attention and dignity and is close to where people live. We can only continue to provide that care with high levels of commitment to health with proper resources. Please join me in my call to our policy leaders: healthcare is a team sport, and we all have a vital role to fulfill, on behalf of patients, healthcare teams, families and communities.

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Bridge welcomes guest columns from a diverse range of people on issues relating to Michigan and its future. The views and assertions of these writers do not necessarily reflect those of Bridge or The Center for Michigan. Bridge does not endorse any individual guest commentary submission. If you are interested in submitting a guest commentary, please contact David Zeman. Click here for details and submission guidelines.

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