Michigan Ramps up Efforts to Recruit and Retain Healthcare Providers During The COVID-19 Pandemic

By: Jesse A. Markos, Esq.
Wachler & Associates, P.C

The outbreak and continuation of the COVID-19 pandemic has stretched the staffing resources of Michigan’s health care system to unprecedented levels. Adding to the demand for already scarce health care providers, hospitals have scrambled to find additional frontline workers like emergency medicine physicians and nurses. During this period of mounting workforce shortage, Michigan has taken significant steps to enhance efforts to recruit and retain health care providers.

For example, on February 16, 2022, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed a new law approving $1.2 billion in federal aid money for COVID-19 relief efforts. Importantly, $300 million of that federal aid has been earmarked to address the shortage of health care providers. In a tweet sent the same day, Gov. Whitmer stated: “The bill I signed today is a testament to what’s possible when Republicans and Democrats work together to put Michiganders first…and make healthcare more accessible.” This new law gives the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services the ability to offer certain cash recruitment and retention bonuses, student loan payment assistance or tuition assistance, and reimbursement for certain training in order to attract and retain health care providers.

This federal aid to help recruit providers has not been the only action taken in Michigan to fight the current workforce shortage. On December 27, 2021, Michigan joined 21 other states in recognizing other state health care licenses in certain situations when Gov. Whitmer signed Public Act 167 of 2021 into law. This act is designed to allow hospitals and health systems the ability to recruit out-of-state workers quickly and efficiently during a public health emergency. It applies to nurses, physicians or any other health care providers licensed under Article 15 of the Michigan Public Health Code and allows providers licensed in other states, who are in good standing and properly trained, educated, and experienced to provide medical care in Michigan without first obtaining a Michigan license. Of course, in order to do so, the health care provider must be able to otherwise meet the requirements in the Michigan Public Health Code for licensure.

The flexibility provided for in this act is permitted when the Director of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services determines that control of an epidemic is necessary. It is a codification of the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs, Bureau of Professional Licensing’s March 2020 activation of its statutory authority to grant licensure exemptions during a “time of disaster.”

During a pandemic, it is incumbent upon Michigan and its health systems and hospitals to offer bonuses and raises to those serving on the front lines to attract and retain staff and to ensure that personnel resources are available to appropriately handle patient care. For additional information or assistance regarding state licensing, hospital staff privileging, or any other health care related issue, please contact Jesse A. Markos, Esq., of Wachler & Associates, P.C., at (248) 544-0888.

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