A group of Michigan health practices and one patient filed a lawsuit against Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer over her shutdown order that is “risking lives and imperiling health.”
The owners of Grand Health Partners, Wellston Medical Center, and Primary Health Services, and Jeffery Gulick filed the lawsuit against Whitmer, State Attorney General Dana Nessel, and state health director Robert Gordon on Tuesday. The plaintiffs are pushing the governor to lift her ban on “non-essential” treatments, warning that the ban is endangering the lives of many patients.
“This shutdown is risking lives and imperiling health,” Grand Health Partners president and surgeon Dr. Randal Baker told Up North Live. “The curve has been flattened. There will likely be spikes of cases in the future, but we can’t shut down non-COVID health care every time. We need to reassess the best practices to save the most lives, particularly where COVID-19 cases are low.”
Whitmer banned elective surgeries throughout Michigan on March 20 while anticipating a flood of patients infected with the coronavirus. The administration expected a wave of hospitalizations that could overflow the state’s healthcare system. More than a month later, Whitmer has left the same strict rules in place and has extended them through May 28.
“Graphics depicted that while Governor Whitmer’s administration anticipated 220,000 patients being hospitalized without social distancing efforts, there had only been 3,000 hospitalizations as of April 27. That is less than 1.4% of the projected COVID-19 hospitalizations underlying the Governor’s declared states of emergency and disaster,” the lawsuit says.
Hospitals, clinics, and other medical providers across the state are struggling financially as they are forced to turn away all but the most serious illnesses and those with flu-like symptoms that may be COVID-19. Last month, Hillsdale Hospital Vice President and COO Jeremiah Hodshire wrote an open letter to Whitmer pleading with her to relax the ban on elective surgeries, citing financial strain.
“If there is one thing that we need now more than ever, it’s patients using our services instead of living in fear of leaving their homes while their health needs are left unmet,” Hodshire wrote. He said her “reckless and senseless” executive order banned his hospital from performing the procedures that generate one-fifth of its net income.
Michigan hospitals are losing roughly $300 million in addition to spending about $100 million a week on additional supplies because of the coronavirus, according to the Michigan Health and Hospital Association. Over 1 million Michigan residents have filed unemployment claims across all sectors since the outbreak, according to the Department of Labor.
“Medical providers are on the brink of financial ruin, facing extreme revenue shortages caused by the Governor’s order forcing the postponement or cancellation of so-called ‘non-essential’ procedures. Thousands of healthcare workers across Michigan have been furloughed or laid off,” the lawsuit says.
“Not only has this shutdown harmed my employees and my practice, but it has put my patients directly at risk,” said Jordan Warnsholz, owner of Wellston Medical Center and Primary Health Services. “These oppressive executive orders are meant to save lives, but instead, they are endangering many of them.”
Gov. Whitmer’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
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