GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Army Capt. Chavez Scott is an emergency medicine physician with the Department of Defense, working at their trauma center in San Antonio. However, since last Friday he’s been in Grand Rapids, working side by side with the team at Spectrum's Blodgett Hospital on Wealthy Street.
“As you can imagine coming from the southern states to up north I’ve got to get used to the cold a little bit,” Captain Scott said during a virtual meet and greet hosted by Spectrum on Friday. “Just to kind of contrast, even though it’s a little cold I’ve experienced the warmest of welcomes from everybody. Everybody’s so excited to see us, from the CEO all the way down to whoever in the hospital.”
Captain Scott said every day someone is saying thank you to him or his team.
READ MORE: Michigan requesting more ventilators from feds as COVID-19 hospitalizations soar
For weeks, Spectrum has been sounding the alarms on how significantly the latest COVID surge is impacting their hospitals. They’re near max capacity, with patients battling COVID and other ailments and disease. Recent data shows that 86 percent of their COVID patients are unvaccinated along with 93 percent of those in the ICU.
“Spectrum Health, we’ve seen a prolonged surge volume over the last couple of months, with greater than 20-percent increase in our volumes,” said Julie Bulson, director of business assurance with Spectrum. “Despite the fact that we have deferred surgeries over the last several months, our COVID-19 census continues to climb. We do anticipate hitting the peak of a surge from other predictive analysis that are out there between now and mid-January.”
Spectrum then reached out to the state for help. Friday, Dec. 3, at least four doctors, over a dozens nurses, administrative staff and respiratory therapists — all from the Department of Defense — arrived.
READ MORE: Overwhelmed Spectrum Health doctors, nurses getting help from federal team
Sunday they were meeting staff at the hospital, Captain Scott said, and Monday they were helping patients.
“We were fortunately one of the three organizations in the state that did receive DoD support and we are grateful that they are here. They have made a dramatic difference not only in staffing and allowing us to be able to care for our patients, but even from an emotional perspective,” Bulson said. “The comments that we’re getting back from the team members on the units are that of gratitude and just emotionally supportive of having the DoD here.”
Captain Chavez said they're really there to “augment” the doctors, nurses and staff members to ultimately “lighten their load.” So far, he’s been seeing 10–12 patients a day.
“Walking in seems kind of like a calm, scary deal as in like the rooms are filled. We’re constantly kind of trying to shuffle in, make sure that we get all the patients into the room, get them on a ventilator, treat them appropriately,” Captain Scott said. “From a staffing standpoint, from a morale [standpoint], I’ve actually been very, very, very surprised at how well they’ve been handling this situation because coming in I know everybody’s been stressed out.”
The DoD team is expected to stay through December, spending the holidays at the hospital in Grand Rapids just like the staff.
As much as the Spectrum staff appreciates Captain Scott and the team for being there, he said he appreciated them and their resiliency most.
“They’ve been tired but you can’t tell on the look of their face ‘cause they’re kind of representing the frontline and they’re like their patients' last hope to hopefully getting better one day and getting off that ventilator,” he said. “So, that’s one thing that I really applaud Spectrum Health: their employees, their doctors, everybody that’s involved, the patient care of how well that they’ve been able to kind of continue this fight because it’s been a very, very long battle.”
READ MORE: Coronavirus omicron variant in Michigan: What you need to know