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Hospitals see surge in COVID-19 patients


By Judy Reed

Local hospitals are seeing a rising wave of COVID-19 patients. They are asking for the public’s help to slow the spread of the virus.

The number of COVID-19 patients entering area hospitals is rising, and officials are asking for the public’s help to stem the tide.

The Post contacted area hospitals this week to find out where things stand with the virus and their admissions. We received the following statement from Spectrum Health:

 “As the number of COVID-19 cases continues to rise at an alarming rate and hospital admissions surge, Spectrum Health urges Michigan residents to comply with the new three-week emergency epidemic orders from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. Doing so will help ensure that Spectrum Health has the capacity to treat COVID-19 patients as well as those with other conditions requiring immediate attention, such as heart attacks or car crash injuries. We join health systems throughout the state in asking everyone to do their part now to slow the spread and ensure we can care for our patients and communities.”

Number of cases

The COVID-19 dashboard at Spectrum Health Wednesday shows 333 cases of COVID-19 patients across all hospitals in their system. A month ago, there was only 70-80. On October 26, just three week ago, there was 156. About 90 percent of those hospitalized survive; which means 10 percent do not.

Dr. Matt Biersack, MD, chief medical officer of Mercy Health Saint Mary’s in Grand Rapids, said they had 73 COVID-positive inpatients Wednesday. A month ago, they had 14 COVID-positive inpatients. Mercy Health Muskegon had 142 Wednesday.

We asked how many are classified as critical, and what their survival rate looks like. “Typically, about 20 percent of our hospitalized COVID-positive are classified as being in critical condition,” explained Biersack. “Patients who are critically ill tend to stay nearly twice as long as other patients, and those who require ventilators longer still. It’s important to remember that the majority of cases of COVID-19 have no or mild symptoms, so the survival rate is difficult to assess. Additionally, new drug therapies have shown to reduce mortality, and we’re seeing that these current treatments are more effective than those we were using in the spring.”

Staffing

John Norton, a spokesperson for Spectrum United, Kelsey, and Big Rapids Hospitals, said they are seeing staffing challenges. “We’re experiencing staffing challenges as we have employees test positive and will then go on quarantine,” he explained. According to the Spectrum Health dashboard at https://www.spectrumhealth.org/covid19, 72 staff were positive Tuesday.

Mercy Health is seeing those same challenges. “Staffing is challenged right now as we care for an increasing number of COVID and non-COVID patients,” explained Dr. Biersack. “We are bringing in nurses from across Mercy Health and St. Joe’s hospitals. We’re also working with our national system, Trinity Health, to recruit out of state nurses through its First Choice and visiting nurse programs. A virtual career fair was held this week to help recruit more nurses into our system. Mercy Health is also looking to re-deploy other available clinical staff to support front line patient needs in non-COVID areas.”

Biersack did not have an exact number on how many staff members have COVID-19. “It’s a number that is rapidly in flux, but fair to say, like the rates in the general community, higher than we’d like. This adds to the challenge of caring for a rapidly increasing number of COVID-positive patients.

Capacity

How are they doing on capacity?

Bruce Rossman, with Spectrum Health, explained their plans on maintaining the capacity to care for COVID-19 patients. “Spectrum Health has 1,850 licensed beds in its system. All our hospitals have “ plans in place to shift bed type and capacity based on clinical need. In addition, we have the ability to convert some areas of our hospitals, such as rooms associated with surgery, into patient rooms. We also have contingency plans in place for patient overflow areas and continue to investigate additional surge locations.”

Dr. Biersack said that Mercy Health Saint Mary’s still has capacity, but they are delaying some types of elective surgeries to ensure they have room to care for both COVID patients and non-COVID patients who still need important medical care.

PPE

Both Spectrum Health and Mercy Health systems have enough PPE gear on hand to last greater than 30 days. That would include N95 masks, surgical masks, gowns, gloves, and eye protection.

“We currently have enough supplies on hand per current CDC guidelines and continue to watch supply and demand daily,” said Dr. Biersack. “We have our own distribution center in Fort Wayne, Indiana, which enables us to quickly meet the varying needs of our hospitals. We continue to closely monitor key resources and meet regularly with supply chain counterparts in our other health systems and our national organization to stay aligned.”

What have they learned about treatment since last spring?

“We have learned so much about the disease, treatment options, how it’s spread and therefore how to protect other patients and staff,” explained Dr. Biersack. “Supply chains are much better positioned than before, and we have adequate supplies of PPE to meet current guidelines. Unfortunately, what’s also different is that the community is tired of this pandemic, and more lax now in social distancing, masking, etc. These are still important! Please help us help our community by continuing to wear a mask, wash your hands, and follow social distancing guidelines.”

To follow what’s happening at the hospitals, there are a few places you can look.

https://www.spectrumhealth.org/covid19 (scroll down to dashboard)

https://www.mercyhealth.com/health-and-wellness/covid-19/#covid (scroll down)

https://tinyurl.com/s33hdn7  Statewide Available PPE and Bed tracking

State Rep. Mark Huizenga-R, of Walker, issued the following statement Wednesday regarding the recent rise in COVID-19 cases in Michigan:

“We have entered a critical period as our state fights against this wave of COVID-19 infection. Hospitals have communicated to us that capacity limits are quickly approaching and these vital facilities will be overwhelmed if this uptick continues. We have to take this seriously.

“So I ask people in the greater Grand Rapids area and across the state to do what they can to slow the spread. I understand this is a very polarizing time in our nation’s history given. People are hesitant to trust what they hear. But opting to discard the advice of the medical professionals who are working tirelessly to combat this virus isn’t the answer. Blatantly and purposefully disregarding the advice of medical professionals doesn’t impact the opposition party – it does potentially impact you and those around you.

“We have seen news reports that a vaccine rollout could be coming soon. We must focus on pushing through to the finish line. Let’s practice good principles and listen to medical professionals while working to protect our communities and our loved ones from COVID-19.”

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