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COVID-19 Brings Best and Worst of Times to Michigan Business

By Crain’s Content Studio 

Key Takeaways 

  • In the future, governmental units need to be more coordinated in adopting protocols while dealing with outbreaks such as COVID-19.
  • The health care industry will have serious staffing shortage issues, and potential solutions include importing nurses from abroad to address the shortage.
  • Technology seemed to help ease transitions during COVID-19 both in terms of services and workforce

As the chief executive officer of Henry Ford Health System, Wright L. Lassiter III has seen the worst of times up close during the COVID-19 pandemic, including nurses retiring in droves and more than 100 hospital beds unoccupied due to staffing shortages.

Despite all the sickness, death, and stresses on patients, staff and families, though, Lassiter has also found silver linings. The number of virtual doctor-patient consultations at Henry Ford has increased 2,600% year-over-year, he said, as staff and the public have smartly deployed technology.

“I’m heartened by the power and resilience of the health care workforce,” said Lassiter, who added that that same workforce needs more emotional support.

Similar stories of business challenges and resilience during COVID-19 were shared during a panel discussion Tuesday, Sept. 21, at the Mackinac Policy Conference by Ryan Maibach, president and chief executive officer of Barton Malow Holdings, and Sandy Pierce, senior executive vice president, private bank and regional banking director and chair, Huntington Michigan. Moderator for the panel discussion was Rick Albin, political reporter for WOOD-TV 8.

“I was astounded from a technology standpoint at how seamless” the switch from office to work-at-home for certain bank employees was, Pierce said. On the flip side, the pandemic made it painfully clear that information technology talent “can work from anywhere,” and therefore retaining IT talent may become more difficult.

Pierce noted that the bank moved quickly to develop approaches for all branches regarding masking up, etc., but then implementation was complicated by different Michigan counties imposing different rules.

While Huntington’s bank branches did a fine job of using technology to provide essential services to customers, Pierce said the industry faces a culture challenge going forward. “How do we keep the personal connection going forward with our customers?” she asked.

Maibach said the order pipeline for Barton Malow’s major construction projects is very strong, and that his firm has made several strategic hires from areas outside its usual business locations.

This session was sponsored by Business Leaders for Michigan.

This article was written by Crain’s Content Studio for the 2021 Mackinac Policy Conference.