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Nurses push back on Munson plan

An entrance to Munson Medical Center in Traverse City. Munson Healthcare announced changes that will affect all seven of their hospitals across northern Michigan. (Photo: Ellie Katz/IPR News)
An entrance to Munson Medical Center in Traverse City. Munson Healthcare announced changes that will affect all seven of their hospitals across northern Michigan. (Photo: Ellie Katz/IPR News)

Union nurses have expressed concern about Munson Healthcare's new “Regional Care Transformation Plan,” which will impact hospitals across northern Michigan.

Munson released the plan at the end of September. Among other things, it calls for consolidating inpatient care — something the nurses say is not the right move for a largely rural region.

Facilities in Charlevoix, Grayling and Manistee will become what Munson calls “community hospitals” that have a greater focus on outpatient care. 

Outpatient care refers to any medical procedure that doesn’t require an overnight stay.

But leadership in the Michigan Nurses Association, which represents about 1,000 nurses in the Munson Healthcare system, said that could cause more problems

In a statement shared last week, the union said virtual appointments are no substitute for in-person care especially in a region that has limited access to the internet.

Munson officials said the new plan comes amid ongoing post-pandemic challenges, like staffing issues and inflation.

But the union said staffing shortages are because nurses are choosing not to work in the profession because of the conditions hospitals have created — and that, "reducing vital services in rural areas will make the problem worse, not better.”

Under the plan, Otsego Memorial Hospital will become the "East" region's regional hospital, while Charlevoix and Grayling will become “community” hospitals, with a greater focus on outpatient services than inpatient care.

In Munson’s “South” region, officials say Cadillac will become the regional hospital, while Manistee and Paul Oliver Memorial Hospital will limit inpatient care, prioritizing outpatient care instead.

Michael Livingston covers the area around the Straits of Mackinac - including Cheboygan, Charlevoix, Emmet and Otsego counties as a Report for America corps member.