UPHS-Marquette making hard choices in tough environment

Recent employee cuts at Upper Peninsula Health System-Marquette has become the talk of the town. Since Duke LifePoint has taken over the hospital, there have been many changes including a reduction in the number of people employed at the hospital.

People like to reflect back on the days that Marquette General Hospital was a non-profit hospital. They had more employees and everyone felt that things were always in good shape. The truth of the matter is that there were many years when the hospital was operating as a non-profit that the cash flow was not strong enough to pay all the bills.

One of the bills that was not fully paid was the funding for the pension plan. When Duke Lifepoint came in they immediately came up with over $90 million dollars in cash to make the pension fund whole.

Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel, one of the architects of the Affordable Care Act or Obamacare, estimated that 1,000 hospitals nationwide will be closing because of Obamacare. Reports show 21 hospitals closed in 2016 and 12 have closed or filed bankruptcy in Quarter 1 of 2017. The truth is that healthcare is extremely volatile and experiencing unprecedented challenges throughout the United States and UP Health Systems is not immune to these challenges.

We realize that many of the layoffs at the hospital have been extremely painful for some long-term loyal employees. We also realize that under current challenging economic times for the health care industry that there will likely be more layoffs in the future.

The reality of keeping the business running comes at a cost. That cost includes the loss of valuable employees. We don’t expect anyone to be happy about these unfortunate employee reductions, but they are part of a plan to insure the hospitals future viability.

UP Health System-Marquette has also had challenges with their Leap Frog ratings going from an A to a D and also some concerns over the quality of care at the hospital.

These challenges have contributed to a significant increase in out migration of business to other hospitals. These factors have also contributed to necessary job cuts because of the loss of revenue.

We are hopeful that under the leadership of the new CEO Brian Sinotte that things will continue to improve. The Leap Frog ratings have gone from a D to a C. If you have been a recent patient at the hospital you should have noticed the mandatory hourly patient visits. You should also be aware of follow up contacts asking about your satisfaction with your stay and the quality of care at the hospital.

We believe that Duke Lifepoint realizes that it has work to do in some areas to regain the confidence of the local community for their health care needs. UP Health System-Marquette is spending close to $300 million dollars on a new hospital. They realize that along with the bricks and mortar that go into the building, they also need to rebuild community confidence.

It is a several year process from design to completion of the new building. The new hospital is scheduled to be open in the fall of 2018. A similar time line should be expected while working on rebuilding confidence in the quality of care at the hospital.

Even though there are fewer employees at UP Health System-Marquette, the hospital still employs close to 2,000 local people. The construction of the new hospital will also employ between 3,500 to 4,000 people throughout the project with close to a peak daily count of close to 500 workers. Most of the workers are local people.

The hospital is still one of the areas major employers. A significant part of the economic future for this area is dependent on a successful hospital. We hope between now and the opening of the new hospital that patient confidence continues to improve driven by the new patent satisfaction systems in place.

If that happens, and if out-migration of heath care diminishes and the hospital shows growth in revenue due to more people getting their care locally, then we hope there will be a need for employment increases for UP Health System-Marquette in the future.