Trinity Health CEO writes letter to Congress on recommendations to assist health systems

Mike Slubowski, president and CEO of Trinity Health, wrote a letter last week to congressional committee leaders with recommendations for health infrastructure legislation. Slubowski calls on lawmakers to provide more funding and assistance to health systems, expand access to behavioral health and community-based services, and provide COVID-19 response infrastructure. 

 

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Trinity Health is a Catholic health care system — based in Michigan — serving over 30 million people. 

Currently in Michigan, intensive care unit (ICU) capacity is running out. As of Sept. 13, 83.5% of ICU beds are in use in Michigan and 82.1% of inpatient hospital beds are occupied.

High COVID numbers are coupled with a continuous hospital workforce burnout. According to Slubowski, recent studies show 22% of frontline nurses and 20% of nursing leadership plan to leave the profession due to increased burnout during the COVID-19 pandemic. He says limited workforce is leading to competition amongst hospitals for workers. 

“We do not have a strong pipeline to replace them. Health systems are competing for nurses with temporary staffing agencies that have driven rates up to unsustainable levels.”

The letter is addressed to many congressional committee leaders including: Sen. Ron Wyden, Sen. Mike Crapo, Sen. Patty Murray, Sen. Richard Burr, Rep. Richard Neal, Rep. Kevin Brady, Rep. Frank Pallone, and Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers. He also copies Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Rep. Kevin McCarthy, Sen. Charles Schumer, and Sen. Mitch McConnell. 

In the letter, Slubowski breaks his recommendations down into three main categories: support the health care workforce, expand access to care, and build and maintain a strong public health system. 

To support the health care workforce, Slubowski recommends providing funding for loan repayments, incentives, workforce related COVID-19 costs, and demonstration programs for clinician wellbeing. He also suggests efforts to build a culturally diverse workforce, increase Medicaid reimbursement and residency slots, and provide visa relief for foreign health care workers. 

In the section on expanding access to care, Slubowski recommends expanding efforts to close coverage gaps through Affordable Care Act (ACA) subsidies, extend hospital-at-home flexibility, and support increased access to behavioral health services. 

To build and maintain a strong public health system, Slubowski recommends requiring standardized and robust data collection, expanding investments in “social influencers of health” like housing and food access, and requiring development of a national response strategy for equitable COVID-19 infrastructure, such as testing, vaccines, and medical equipment. 

In addressing the staffing issues internally, Trinity Health has created a mobile workforce, created flexible shifts for the recently retired and nursing students, invested in workforce training, and moved staff from ambulatory care to acute care. Slubowski says:

“We need action from Congress and the Biden Administration now. That’s why I sent a letter to congressional committee leaders requesting that incentives to keep health care workers on the front lines throughout the remainder of this public health emergency be included in legislation currently under development…”