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Crain’s Grand Rapids Business Brief

Crain's Grand Rapids Business

Mark Sanchez from Crain’s Grand Rapids Business joins us to discuss:

-Michigan’s aging population threatening long-term prosperity

-Legislation focusing on nurse staffing ratios

-Preserving independent medical practices

Patrick Center: Wednesday afternoon, time for our bi-monthly conversation with Crain's Grand Rapids business, senior writer Mark Sanchez. There's a new study out: Stagnant and aging population threatening Michigan's long-term prosperity.

Mark Sanchez: Yeah, it's a warning or wake-up call as Eric Lupher of the Citizens Research Council of Michigan told us for story this week in Crane’s Grand Rapids Business dot com, it's really kind of repeating what we've heard from other organizations such as Michigan Future Inc., or Business Leaders for Michigan, which is Michigan's population has been relatively stagnant for 5 decades now. It's not growing, it’s lagging significantly other states. In fact, Michigan, out of 50 states and the District of Columbia, Michigan ranks 50th for population growth. Now over a number of years, even before the pandemic, we heard so much and we continue to hear every single day from corporations to small business owners about the talent shortage, not enough people in the workforce, not enough workers to hire for what they need. You know, these 2 things need each other. If we're not growing the population, there aren’t new people to fill those jobs. And we've got an entire generation of baby boomers retiring, leaving the workforce we've had for quite a while, a younger generation more out-migration, more younger college educated folks leaving the state more folks moving to other states and we have people coming in. So this is a real issue that the Citizens Research Council and [unintelligible] are pointing to, that you have to start looking at this more. And their ideas are, you know, make it a place people want to be, the ideal place-making, sense of place. And there's an interesting aspect in these reports that they put out, instead of focusing on just making Michigan a low tax…or constantly looking to cut taxes, look at investments. How do you make a better place? We've got abundant natural resources here in Michigan. How do you play into that to attract more people into the state to grow the population and start providing the workforce of the future? These reports also as well talk about not as much emphasis on manufacturing, but more on high-tech high pay professions. And they really offer a lot of ideas out there, and they really outline the problem a fairly well. And I should also add, that not everybody, not every county, every market in the state is experiencing this population decline. There's a corridor across the Lower Peninsula from Southeast Michigan all the way to West Michigan, including Kent, Ottawa, Allegan, Newaygo and Ionia counties, Barry county…across the region that are projected to grow above the state average. The state's only projected to grow just 1% in population for 2050. These counties are really projected to grow at 4% or more. So there are exceptions to what's going on statewide and West Michigan is one of them.

PC: Do you find some of the nonprofit regional Economic Development Corporation's working on a broader plan working together to get the word out? Because I would imagine there's a timeline here. There is that end date where it gets to be a little too late. Do you find that in this report and do you see some of these organizations coalescing to get a broader message out?

MS: What the Citizens Research Council put out the other day did not specifically mention local or regional specifics other than there are various counties who are kind of can trust, what's going on statewide. But we have reported over the last year that there's an initiative here in West Michigan, by the Right Place Inc. to attract more workers to build the technology sector. I wrote a couple months ago with all the layoffs on the West Coast in the tech sector. There's a push on to say, hey, we have opportunities here in West Michigan. Come here, come check us out and meet, bring your careers and your talents here. So, yes, there are local initiatives. And though that's part of what you're seeing and some of this data that shows certain counties in the regions can trust in the statewide average says they've been focusing on this issues of creating an economy, creating opportunity, creating that such a place to draw people into the regions.

PC: Speaking of talents, two weeks ago, we talked about this. There are some bills in the state legislature revolving around nurse staffing ratios. Where are we today on this?

MS: You know, all those bills were just introduced a week ago and the House and Senate here in Michigan, basically they would set ratios what the nurses are saying. This really is legislation spoke to both and Democratic lawmakers in Lansing and backed by the Michigan Nurses Association. And their goal is just to retain people in the profession and bring them back to the profession. And, you know, improve patient’s safety. Nurses are saying they're understaffed. There are about 8500 open nursing positions in Michigan. That's data that comes from the Michigan Health and Hospital Association. And now we see this legislation that would specifically say you need X number of nurses where X number of patients, whether it's in the med surge, the the word or the ICU, critical care unit legislation. They're connected with that specific stepping ratios. And this is the issue, the nurses of important to as a reason for burnout, stress, especially during the last 3 years of the pandemic. It's caused a lot of nurses to leave the profession or go to other care settings. So this bill has been proposed it’s been introduced in the legislature in the past didn't really go anywhere. But the nursing shortage has been worsening in Lansing, kept out of control. And once in the legislature, the union and the backers of these bills are hoping they can get them passed this year.

PC: We're talking with senior writer Mark Sanchez with Crain's Grand Rapids business. Let’s wrap things up. We'll keep in the medical profession; Grand Rapids doctors create new national group to preserve independent practices.

MS: So many doctors today are part of either a large health system. They're employed they’ve upped for that employment model and sold their practice with seeing that here play on Grand Rapids, or we’re seen in the last number of years a lot of private equity investments in health care, acquiring especially specialty medical practices, such as anesthesiology, Ent, dermatology emergency medicine practices. And now we're beginning to see a push back on that. This is called the Association for Independent Medicine and the local anesthesiology, anesthesia practice called Anesthesia Practice Consultants, you’ll see, was one of four founding members of this organization in a nutshell what they want to do is really strengthen those independent medical practices. So they stay just that independent. They believe that there's too much focus on revenue and money in health care by the large health systems, a lot private equity investors, and that's affecting patient care. They want to help and strengthen these practices so they stay independent. So they resist the urge or the need to sell out to a private equity group. Part of this movement is rooted here in Grand Rapids. Again it started with four so independent practices here. A couple in Chicago couple here in Michigan. It's now grown to six in the folks at the Anesthesia Practice Consultant for President Jack Dillon tells me he's talking to 40 to 60 practices around the nation now. So it's really something that’s growing you're hearing more about each day about preserving and protecting and strengthening these independent medical practices in markets across the country.

PC: Crain's Grand Rapids Business, Senior Writer Mark Sanchez, thank you so much.

MS: Thank you, Patrick.

Patrick joined WGVU Public Media in December, 2008 after eight years of investigative reporting at Grand Rapids' WOOD-TV8 and three years at WYTV News Channel 33 in Youngstown, Ohio. As News and Public Affairs Director, Patrick manages our daily radio news operation and public interest television programming. An award-winning reporter, Patrick has won multiple Michigan Associated Press Best Reporter/Anchor awards and is a three-time Academy of Television Arts & Sciences EMMY Award winner with 14 nominations.
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