Overwhelmed Spectrum Health doctors, nurses getting help from federal team

The specialized Dept. of Defense team will supplement doctors in GR, Detroit
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Posted at 6:12 PM, Dec 02, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-04 15:32:09-05

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — On what they say has been their worst single day for COVID-19 hospitalizations since coronavirus surfaced in Michigan 20 months ago, overwhelmed Spectrum Health doctors and nurses are getting help from the federal government.

A team of 22 nurses, doctors and respiratory specialists with the Department of Defense are descending on Spectrum to aid their staff in caring for an influx of sick patients. The first group of professionals arrived Tuesday while the rest arrived on Thursday.

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“We're so grateful,” said Chad Tuttle, senior vice president of Hospital Operations at Spectrum Health. “They are going to be embedded throughout our hospitals, working alongside of our caregivers, which is a true blessing for us especially this time of year. It’s something that we're very thankful and grateful for, to have these resources.”

Tuttle says Spectrum typically prefers to have one-to-one patient/caregiver ratios. He says since this most recent surge, capacity has topped 100%.

“Nurses may be caring for two patients or three patients in intensive care units,” said Tuttle, “and med-surge units, where we would like staff to be able to care for four or five patients; they may be caring for five or six or seven patients.”

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As of numbers updated Thursday, Spectrum has 457 patients hospitalized with COVID-19 with 121 of those patients in ICU beds. Tuttle says 87% of their coronavirus patients are unvaccinated.

“There's only so much square footage inside of our walls; there's only so many beds that we can make available,” he added. “And there's only so many staff that we have available to care for these patients.”

Speaking to FOX 17, MDHHS Director Elizabeth Hertel said the surge in cases could be dangerous for non-COVID patients. Spectrum says they’ve already had to defer over 1,100 surgeries so far.

“It's really concerning,” said Hertel. “If your local hospital has hit capacity, and you or someone you love has a stroke or a heart attack, you're not going to be able to access care at your local hospital. You're going to be diverted to a different hospital that may be further away.”

It’s Spectrum’s hope that the specialized DOD team will be enough to supplement their strained staffing through this most recent wave, and a dangerous time of the year for respiratory illness.

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