Outmigration is just what it sounds like — the departure of U.P. patients to areas outside the Upper Peninsula to seek medical care.

Outmigration often happens because of a lack of availability of certain specialties and medical services.

But Marquette General CEO Gary Muller says at the same time, if U.P. providers don’t provide high levels of customer care along with medical treatment, patients will go elsewhere.

Officials we’ve spoken with from several hospitals say patient outmigration costs the U.P. $80 million per year.

The U.P. has 15 hospitals.

Most of the U.P.’s 15 counties have one hospital each.

But Menominee County and Keweenaw County don’t have any, while Houghton County and Marquette County each have two.

So, how large is the hospital community?

The most recent data from the U.P. Health Care Network is from 2006, and 14 of the U.P.’s 15 hospitals belong to that group.

We’ve combined that information with figures from OSF St. Francis Hospital & Medical Group in Escanaba — the one hospital not part of the network — to form a U.P.–wide estimate.

The 15 hospitals have a total of 1,030 beds and 7,351 full-time employees, 787 of whom are physicians with practicing privileges.

Tomorrow, we’ll examine several U.P. hospitals and the various medical specialties in which they excel.

Posted by: Mike Hoey