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Published in Health Care
Spectrum Health’s COVID-19 vaccine clinic. Spectrum Health’s COVID-19 vaccine clinic. COURTESY OF SPECTRUM HEALTH

Legislature approves $300M in COVID relief funding to help retain health care workers

BY Wednesday, February 09, 2022 01:04pm

Legislation allocating $1.2 billion in pandemic relief funding that’s now headed to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer for her signature includes $300 million to help health care providers retain and attract staff.

Care providers could use the money to pay retention and attraction bonuses, college loan payment and tuition assistance, and training.

House Bill 5523 passed on Tuesday by wide margins in both the state House and Senate and offers “critically needed resources for recruitment and retention of healthcare workers to care for our communities,” said Michigan Health & Hospital Association CEO Brian Peters.

Hospital leaders across the state have reported acute staffing shortages that worsened during the latest COVID-19 surge brought on by the omicron variant but that is now showing signs of waning. The pandemic has led to deeper staff shortages as care providers such as nurses left the profession, retired or moved to other care settings.

“Hospitals throughout all regions of Michigan are experiencing significant workforce shortages,” Peters said today in a statement that urged Whitmer to sign the bill. “This funding is vital to assist hospitals and health systems in addressing high job vacancy rates, providing training and development, and supporting existing workers who have resiliently provided care for patients throughout the two years of this pandemic.”

To receive funds, care providers must agree to not use an employee’s vaccine status as a factor in providing bonuses or other assistance.

Many health systems and hospitals have offered bonuses to attract and retain staff amid a health care workers shortage, including University of Michigan Health-West and Spectrum Health, now known as BHSH System following its merger with Beaumont Health. MiBiz reported in November that Spectrum allocated $117 million for higher pay and bonuses to help retain and attract workers amid a widespread health care industry staffing shortage.

H.B. 5523 directs the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services to allocate 75 percent of the $300 million to the Michigan Health & Hospital Association to administer and provide to acute care and behavioral health care providers. The Department of Health and Human Services would administer the remaining 25 percent of the funding for post-acute care providers and federally qualified health centers.

Using federal relief funds, H.B. 5523 also allocates $367.3 million for epidemiology and laboratory capacity, $150.7 million for schools to buy COVID testing kits, $75 million for early treatment and testing sites, $70 million for adult foster care homes and homes for the aged, $54.1 million for vaccine support, and $29.7 million for COVID-19 mitigation efforts.

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