Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s latest executive order grants hospitals and other care providers greater flexibility in how they use staff and students to treat COVID-19 patients.
The executive order the governor issued Sunday temporarily suspends scope-of-practice provisions in the state’s Public Health Code for licensed, registered or certified health care professionals. The order allows hospitals and other care facilities to use physician assistants, nurses and other qualified professionals to work without supervision from a licensed physician where they are employed or contracted to work.
“Responding effectively to the urgent and steep demands created by the COVID-19 pandemic will require the help of as many health care professionals as possible, working in whatever capacities are appropriate to their respective education, training, and experience,” according to the executive order. “To ensure health care professionals and facilities are fully enabled to provide the critical assistance and care needed by this state and its residents during this unprecedented emergency, it is reasonable and necessary to provide limited and temporary relief from certain restrictions and requirements governing the provision of medical services.”
The governor’s executive order also allows students enrolled in programs to become a licensed, registered or certified health care professional to volunteer or work in a facility “in whatever roles that are necessary to support the facility’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic and are appropriate to the student’s education, training, and experience.”
The order specifically allows medical students, physical therapists and emergency medical technicians to volunteer or work under the supervision of physicians, respiratory therapists or advanced practice registered nurses as “respiratory therapist extenders” assisting to operate ventilators and other medical devices.
The executive order drew differing views from health care groups in Lansing.
“During this unprecedented time when hospitals need to increase capacity, every available healthcare worker matters in helping to treat the surge of patients entering Michigan hospitals,” a spokesperson with the Michigan Health & Hospital Association said in an email to MiBiz.
The Michigan State Medical Society said it could not support the order, “as patients benefit most from a physician-led team.”
“Now more than ever, patients must be confident they will receive safe and quality care,” Medical Society President Mohammed Arsiwala said in a statement posted online. “MSMS supports language in the EO that requires health care facility administrators to consult with their respective medical leadership teams to determine how to maintain proper staffing for the best patient care possible. Additionally, MSMS expects that any decisions made will take into consideration assignments appropriate to each professional’s education, training, and experience.”
Gov. Whitmer issued the executive order as hospitals work to ramp up capacity for an expected surge in patients with COVID-19.
In Muskegon, Mercy Health plans to use Muskegon Community College’s Health and Wellness Center as a site for hospital beds for overflow patients. The moves will free up hospital beds for COVID-19 patients.
The 52,000-square-foot center, which has been unoccupied since March 19 when MCC suspended all on-site operations until May 4, houses Mercy Health’s Physician Partners Quarterline Family Medicine practice, eight exam rooms, a treatment room, and a lab to accommodate three Nurse Practitioners and support staff.
Under a contract, Mercy Health can use the center until May 27, according to an announcement from MCC.
“Our mission at Muskegon Community College is to build stronger communities and improve lives,” President Dale Nesbary said. “In these difficult days, we are thankful that our college can help those on the front lines in mitigating COVID-19’s impact on our community and state.
“It’s fitting that today’s health professionals, too, can tap into the Center’s many features to battle one of the greatest health challenges of our lifetime.”
In Grand Rapids, Spectrum Health last week moved beds and equipment into Grand Valley State University’s Cook-DeVos Center for Health Sciences in preparation for a surge in patients from the COVID-19 pandemic, as MiBiz previously reported.
The GVSU facility, across Michigan Street from Spectrum Health’s Butterworth Hospital campus in downtown Grand Rapids, has space for up to 250 beds. The added capacity, if needed, would go for non-COVID-19 patients and low-acuity patients. COVID-19 patients would remain in the hospital.
During a press conference today, the state’s chief medical executive and chief deputy director for health, Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, said the COVID-19 pandemic in Michigan is “still several weeks away from a peak.
“We think it’s going to be several weeks and we are on the upslope right now,” Khaldun said.
As of Sunday, Michigan had 5,486 COVID-19 patients, an increase of 896 cases from the day before, and 132 deaths, an increase of 21.
A study released over the weekend by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at University of Washington Medicine projects the pandemic in Michigan to peak on April 8. By that date, Michigan will have a shortage of 3,790 hospital beds, and 158 deaths per day.
Michigan presently has 10,154 licensed beds, according to University of Washington Medicine.
The study projects that 2,862 people in Michigan will die by Aug. 8 from COVID-19.
The University of Washington Medicine study offers projection for each state and the U.S. The University of Washington Medicine study assumes “the continuation of strong social distancing measures and other protective measures.”
EDITOR’S NOTE: This story has been updated with statements from the Michigan Health & Hospital Association and Michigan State Medical Society.