Michigan Medicine Must Punish Inexcusable Failure

The powerful must answer for their failures.

When those responsible for the public welfare betray that trust they must face consequences. If they do not, democracy ceases to function; it devolves into oligarchy. 

Therefore, I call for the firing of Vikas Parekh, associate chief clinical officer for University of Michigan’s Michigan Medicine. On March 31, Parekh told MLive that his models predicted a peak of 3,179 COVID-19 patients in U of M hospitals on May 16—and that was if the citizens of the state practiced social distancing. If Michiganders didn’t acquiesce to mandatory health measures, he foresaw the peak coming on May 4 with 5,860 beds used. 

Michigan Medicine has only 1,000 beds total. 

Parekh argued that in the best case scenario his hospitals would see a 300 percent surge in COVID-19 patients requiring bed space. He predicted a medical apocalypse.

It never happened.

At the actual peak, on April 15, Michigan Medicine had 229 patients hospitalized with COVID-19. As of May 16 (Parekh’s predicted peak with aggressive social distancing), the hospitals had 59 COVID-19 patients. Parekh’s models weren’t even close. The prediction and the reality weren’t even in the same order of magnitude. Parekh’s expected peak of hospitalizations was 1,000 percent greater than the actual apex. 

This is an inexcusable failure. If Parekh knew his models were full of potential errors, he should have said so. If he didn’t know then he is incompetent. Either way, he deserves to lose his job. More than a third of Michigan’s workforce already has—in large part due to the executive orders issued because of the incorrect and apocalyptic claims made by Parekh and his ilk.

Vikas Parekh’s failure and its consequences for the people of Michigan are bad enough, but even more damning are the consequences for his own hospitals. On May 5, Michigan Medicine announced it was furloughing 1,400 workers due to the ban on non-essential surgeries. The university expects Michigan Medicine to lose at least $230 million this year alone as a result of the lockdown. A lockdown, by the way, that Parekh supported, and continues to support even now that his early models were demonstrably at odds with reality. As of May 11, the Detroit News reported he was still advising the governor to go slowly on reopening the economy.

This is unjustifiable. Michigan, like everywhere else in the Western world, saw a moderate spike in excess mortality in early April that is now in decline. It is not clear that social distancing and business lockdowns did anything to slow this trend. 

It is possible they even made it worse. Sweden, which never had mandatory lockdowns and allowed children to stay in school, saw a  24 percent increase in excess mortality over the last two months. Michigan, which did shelter in place, saw a 28 percent increase from the expected number of deaths. 

Regardless, the people of Michigan are hurting. They have lost jobs, civil liberties, and educational opportunities because of executive orders issued based on faulty models and ungrounded speculation. There needs to be a reckoning.

The University of Michigan should start by firing Vikas Parekh. Justice demands it. 

About Josiah Lippincott

Josiah Lippincott is a former Marine officer and current Master's student at the Van Andel School of Statesmanship at Hillsdale College. You can find him on Twitter at @jlippincott_

Photo: Westend61/Getty Images

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