Beaumont chief blasts Michigan for lack of hospital data during coronavirus

Beaumont Hospital


[EDITOR NOTE: The original article has been updated to include a response from the state.]

John Fox, CEO of Beaumont Health, the state’s largest hospital system, lashed out Sunday at a lack of communication among hospitals and state health officials as Michigan struggles with a surge of patients during the coronavirus crisis. 

With COVID-19 cases and death counts rising steeply, particularly in metro Detroit, Fox cited frustration with data-sharing among hospital systems, which he said can mean delays as patients wait hours at times to be shifted to a hospital with more available resources, potentially putting patients in danger. 

“If somebody has to wait 12 hours in one of our ERs, but they can be seen within two hours, five miles away, I think we have a moral obligation to tell the patient,” Fox said in a phone interview Sunday with Bridge Magazine and the Detroit Free Press. 

Sunday evening, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services acknowledged that not all hospitals are “regularly reporting” patient and other data during the pandemic, as MDHHS had ordered. The state agency vowed that it would provide “improved additional information” within days. 

Fox said that, just over a week ago, Beaumont’s Farmington Hills emergency room was so “slammed” that patients were waiting in the parking lot as doctors scrambled to find nearby emergency rooms to send them to — a routine practice when one hospital gets overloaded. Fox noted that waiting room capacity is even harder to manage as staffers seek to keep arriving patients distanced from one another.

Stories from the front  

Bridge Magazine and the Detroit Free Press are teaming up to report on Michigan hospitals during the coronavirus pandemic. We will be sharing accounts of the challenges doctors, nurses and other hospital personnel face as they work to treat patients and save lives. 

If you work in a Michigan hospital, we would love to hear from you. You can contact Robin Erb at Bridge or Kristen Jordan Shamus at the Free Press.

Nearly all the patients that day had symptoms of COVID-19, Beaumont spokesman Mark Geary added.

Fox blamed a lack of “accurate, real-time data” as contributing to delays in finding other hospitals to send newly arriving patients. 

“It’s time sensitive. You don't get better by sitting in an ER waiting room or out in a parking garage,” Fox said.

Ultimately, Fox said Sunday, it’s up to the state to collect and disseminate the information.

“Part of the role of governments is to pull us together in times of crisis when we need a coordinated response,” he said.

On March 24, Michigan Department of Health and Human Services Director Robert Gordon signed an order requiring hospitals to submit daily reports to the state that include information about bed and ventilator capacity, patient census, and supplies, as well as information on staffing shortages and areas the facility had dedicated to COVID-19 patients. 

The response has been less than uniform, Lynn Sutfin, MDHHS spokesperson, wrote in an email Sunday evening to Bridge and the Free Press. 

The state has received reports from “many hospitals, with Beaumont health system reporting robustly into the system,” but others aren’t filing regular reports, she wrote. 

The state is “working to improve response rate into the system and plans to include improved additional information in the coming days."

For his part, Fox wouldn’t name hospitals he said he suspected of not sharing information.

“I'm not going to throw rocks at anybody,” he said.

Patients were waiting outside a “slammed” ER at Beaumont Health in Farmington Hills recently, and a lack of real-time information delayed finding providers to accept the overflow, said Beaumont’s CEO John Fox.

Elsewhere in the U.S., hospitals have tried to set aside competition to respond to the pandemic.

In New York, private and public hospitals have partnered to create a single hospital system to deal with the projected increase in coronavirus patients, with a goal to share information, supplies, staff and patients across the state.

"The distinction between private and public hospitals has to go out the window,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo Cuomo said at a news conference Tuesday.

In South Florida, five nonprofit hospitals also have traded in competition for collaboration.

The need for a coordinated response is “something much bigger than the needs for each of our institutions. It’s really for the needs of our entire community, said Carlos Migoya, CEO of Jackson Health in Miami.

As it turned out, Fox said, the University of Michigan health system was able to accept the Farmington Hills patients to help “load-balance” patients — a term describing efforts to more evenly distribute patients among health systems.

But two days later, the Farmington Hills emergency room was “slammed” again, Fox said.

With the crush of COVID-19 patients not yet at its expected peak, hospitals could become “super saturated,” he said. As of Sunday, Michigan has 617 deaths and 15,718 confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus.

A good chunk of hospitalized patients are in the Beaumont system. 

By midmorning Sunday, Beaumont — which since March 19 has shared its patient counts publicly —  was caring for 1,074 confirmed COVID-19 patients systemwide.

While a lack of personal protective equipment has been well reported and hospitals are still scrambling for gowns and masks and other supplies, many Michigan businesses have begun to contribute gear by transforming manufacturing lines to production lines of personal protective equipment

Supply donations from other sources are flowing in as well, Fox said in the interview.

The concern now is patient-loading so that Michigan’s health care system can manage the flow of treatment during the expected surge of patients in the coming weeks, Fox said.

“The state is very focused on how many beds you have available,” Fox said. “Our biggest limitation right now is not PPE. It’s not mattresses. It’s people.”


Michigan Health Watch is made possible by generous financial support from the Michigan Health Endowment Fund, the Michigan Association of Health Plans, and the Michigan Health and Hospital Association. The monthly mental health special report is made possible by generous financial support of the Ethel & James Flinn Foundation. Please visit the Michigan Health Watch 'About' page for more information.

Facts matter. Trust matters. Journalism matters.

If you learned something from the story you're reading please consider supporting our work. Your donation allows us to keep our Michigan-focused reporting and analysis free and accessible to all. All donations are voluntary, but for as little as $1 you can become a member of Bridge Club and support freedom of the press in Michigan during a crucial election year.

Pay with VISA Pay with MasterCard Pay with American Express Donate now

Comment Form

Add new comment

Dear Reader: We value your thoughts and criticism on the articles, but insist on civility. Criticizing comments or ideas is welcome, but Bridge won’t tolerate comments that are false or defamatory or that demean, personally attack, spread hate or harmful stereotypes. Violating these standards could result in a ban.

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
This question is for testing whether or not you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.


Mon, 04/06/2020 - 8:21am

OK more people die at Beaumont from disease that they get there then any other hospital in the world!!!

Mon, 04/06/2020 - 10:41am

Chances are that your statement is not really true, very bold comment!

Michelle Diamond
Wed, 04/15/2020 - 6:01pm

Plz Governor .. help healthcare workers.

Ed of GB
Mon, 04/06/2020 - 8:27am

I thought part of the affordable care act was to have better data which is why the doctors put everything about us on some kind of data base. Did they miss thinking hospitals need to have better data between them? Maybe that is something worth spending money on.

Mon, 04/06/2020 - 11:11am

The much touted EMR systems were not distributed for the benefit of the patients but for the benefit of the corporations who sold them (freedom at it's worst?) ; the result of this "healthy capitalism" at work is that they don't communicate well among different systems. Perhaps this was a political sop to get the ACA passed....I don't know. But here we are where a hospital has to resort to paper notes to discharge a patient to a nursing home because of a difference in EMR systems. This was a huge failure that has been the bane of medical workers across the board. So, Ed of GB, unless we are able to admit that some projects are too important to leave in the hands of the open market, we will have to spend decades of torture attempting to fine tune something that was doomed from the beginning. Physician and nurse suicides are on the rise and IMHO EMR's have played a part as staff members have to devote more time pleasing the EMR rather than taking care of the patient.

Just Me
Mon, 04/06/2020 - 9:42am

A simple call to the nearby hospital as to their bed availability would have solved the problem. Throwing a hissy-fit isn’t the answer. Yes, you will get slammed with patients during a pandemic. Pick up the phone next time.

Experienced Car...
Mon, 04/06/2020 - 10:11am

Sorry, but this from a guy who has run every hospital he has touched into the ground. Over the past couple of years, I have visited a couple of their facilities and I can say, I won't be back, what a bunch of crap, your primary objective is to care for the sick, get on with it. Beaumont was caught off guard!

Mon, 04/06/2020 - 10:21am

It is what is folks. The State of Michigan Hazard Mitigation Plan required and approved by FEMA bears no, zero, references to pandemic responses. I have viewed two county plans with the Nor is their reference to ventilator stockpiles, or related life saving hard or soft medical supplies. Mr. Fox needs to shed his blame game smock, oops he is not a doctor, so he needs to shed his suit coat, roll up his sleeves and perhaps, just perhaps, work on establishing goals and objectives, etc., with fellow admins at other hospitals for a framework of a Policy and Procedures Manual for whenever the next pandemic arrives???? Your $5 + million yearly salary is not cheap Mr. Fox....this is new territory for all of us. Lead, follow or get out of the way.

Mon, 04/06/2020 - 11:11am

This is just one more reason for a Universal Non-profit Healthcare for All system. Thank you, Mr. Fox, for driving this point home.

Cindy Lue
Thu, 04/09/2020 - 2:30pm

So government failures means more government? I think the article was about how badly the government is at running the healthcare system, which is expensive, unresponsive, poor at providing data, and badly run. It's not shocking- the more government has gotten involved with the healthcare system, the worse it has gotten. The solution to government failure isn't more government, it is less government.

I never have a problem getting the right cola that I want for the right price. I never have any issues in obtaining milk, bread, or peanut butter. Imagine though if the government got more involved- it would be like roads, schools, hospitals, municipal water, or any of the other industries which government has nosed its way into- expensive and poorly run.

Tue, 04/14/2020 - 8:49am

It’s expensive because we have CEO’s like Fox legally robbing the system. Most of southeastern Michigan has seen how he has tarnished the once replicable Beaumont into the ground by cheapening the care that is provided and making it out to cost more.
Charging $100 for meds that cost less than a $1.00. He’s not part of the solution, he’s clearly part of the problem.

Laurence Rosen
Mon, 04/06/2020 - 1:52pm

Mr. Fox's concerns illustrate the importance of having real-time patient and health care administrative data available. While there has been an enormous increase in patient-record and hospital administrative data collected over the past decade, not all of it is easily shared or made available in a timely fashion. Evidently, the need for current ED data, patient medical records, and current diagnostics has not been well coordinated (if at all). If Mr. Fox's concerns are not currently being addressed, this would be a good time for the major organizations--the Michigan Department of Health & Human Services, the Michigan Health & Hospital Association, and the data exchanges in Southeastern Michiga--to immediately take an "all hands on deck" approach to resolve this critical data issue as quickly as possible.

Barry Visel
Mon, 04/06/2020 - 10:20pm

Did Bridge ask Mr Fox what Beaumont’s emergency management plan says what should happen with with regard to a pandemic? Did they have a plan? Was it executed? Was their plan to depend on Michigan’s plan? Was Michigans plan to rely on the Federal Government plan? Did anyone really have a plan for a pandemic? Could we please dig deeper...please? I’m convinced nobody had a plan for the situation we are stop pointing fingers. And, Bridge, please stop giving people a forum for pointing fingers.

Tue, 04/14/2020 - 8:41am

He’s upset because he wants to know who to send the un insured to so he doesn’t have to eat the cost.
Surely this will take away from his bonus’s and raise he wants to give himself

Michelle Diamond
Wed, 04/15/2020 - 5:59pm

How long can BEAUMONT go around being # healthcare in Michigan, they treat employees like crap. I see them on news, not even paying employees hazard pay, they should work in Detroit, they paying $800 a month. I remember my sister said it use to be good place to work. Horrible leadership and treat staff like crap