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Top doctors continue to sound alarms on COVID’s impact at area hospitals

Spectrum Health 12-3-21.jpg
Posted at 7:10 PM, Dec 03, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-03 19:48:45-05

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Hospitals around the city continue to be near capacity. Presidents and chief doctors from Spectrum Health, Mercy Health St. Mary’s, and the University of Michigan Metro Health West held a joint media briefing virtually to discuss COVID-19’s impact on their respective facilities.

“As you can see the grand total number of inpatients we have in one of our hospitals with COVID-19 is a very high 455,” said Dr. Darryl Elmouchi of Spectrum Health, who started the meeting. “Our record was set two days ago and there’s a little fluctuation. But, most challenging for us as you can see: the ICU numbers. We have 126 adult ICU patients and one pediatric ICU patient.”

READ MORE: Overwhelmed Spectrum Health doctors, nurses getting help from federal team

Dr. Elmouchi showed slides that illustrated the crisis at Spectrum Health. He said that they are "beyond capacity."

Dr. Peter Hahn said they’re experiencing similar circumstances at Metro Health West.

“We at UM Health West have been at about 90 percent of our staff beds at capacity for almost 3 months,” Dr. Hahn said. “Obviously, the vast majority of admitted COVID patients are unvaccinated. They’re younger in age and tend to be sicker, and over 90 percent of our patients who are on ventilators are unvaccinated.”

Dr. Matt Biersack of Mercy Health St. Mary’s said they’re at 98 percent occupancy at their hospitals overall and at 100 percent occupancy in their ICUs.

“We’re also seeing that the healthcare workforce as a whole has contracted. There’s national data that suggests that may be up to 100,000 have left the workforce and among them are some of our more experienced clinicians,” Dr. Biersack said. “Then, as I mentioned, acuity is so much higher. We actually have an additional fleet of 10 ventilators that are arriving today to support demands in our ICU.”

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Dr. Biersack added that the global supply chain issues have impacted them as well. However, the health groups have been able to rely on each other during this time. Thursday, UM Health West sent over feeding tubes to Mercy Health because they were in low supply.

However, at this time what’s equally impacting hospitals is the increase in violence towards frontline workers, he said.

“I think this is the third crisis that we’re dealing with right now in addition to COVID and just the contracting workforce,” said Dr. Biersack. “The threat that our colleagues face on a day-to-day basis and, as [Dr. Darryl Elmouchi] mentioned, our staff are yelled at, hit, punched, scratched. We hear about these on a day-to-day basis. It feels unrelenting.”

Dr. Elmouchi said that every day around the lunch hour, they get a report about some violent episode that a nurse or doctor or healthcare provider endured.

He and other top doctors agreed that now’s a time for showing grace and patience when its comes to their frontline workers.

He said they’re overworked and overwhelmed.

“If you know a healthcare worker, check in with them. Tell them you support them. Thank them for the work that they’ve done,” Dr. Biersack said towards the end of the briefing. “Demonstrate that you care by wearing a mask when you’re out in public. We all ought to be doing that indoors at this point and time.”

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