Spectrum Health getting more bed space to address surge in hospitalizations

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Posted at 12:06 PM, Dec 29, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-29 18:05:07-05

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Spectrum Health has been approved for additional hospital bed capacity amid a surge in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations both from the virus and from delayed care during the pandemic.

Spectrum is adding 54 additional beds at Helen DeVos Children's Hospital. Under existing licensing and prior emergency approvals, Spectrum Health has already added 40 beds at Butterworth Hospital and will add another 40 in January, officials from the health system told Fox 17.

Blodgett Hospital has added 67 beds and another 18 are planned for January.

Spectrum’s occupancy rate has been 89% for December but hit 93% for the week of Dec. 13-15, according to a letter of intent.

In some cases, bed capacity has been added by turning private hospital rooms into semi-private.

“Our hope is we don’t need them," said Spectrum Senior Vice President and COO Brad Brasser. "Our hope is that this will level off, that the demand will wane. But we want to be ready regardless.”

Other plans include considering temporarily turning some beds at Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital’s 11th floor into space for patients. Currently, the floor serves as office space, space used by process improvement teams and patient amenities.

Brasser says they've asked certified nurses who've since moved to data analysis or leadership roles within Spectrum to go back to their roots as caregivers. They've even asked some personnel to come out of retirement.

“Our team members have been incredibly resilient. They have picked up extra hours, they have truly, truly, truly gone above and beyond," said Brasser.

Balk cafeteria, located on the first floor of the children’s hospital, would also turn into an alternative care space with 21 additional beds.

These additional beds are for less serious COVID-19 cases, according to the letter of intent, while higher acuity patients would continue to be treated in standard rooms.

Read the full letter of intent here:

SH Emergency Bed LOI 12.20.21 by WXMI on Scribd

Elective procedures that require a hospital stay have been delayed at Spectrum Health amid the current increase in hospitalizations.

As of Tuesday, Spectrum had 383 COVID-19 patients across its 14 hospitals, 84% of whom are unvaccinated, officials said.

More than 90% of COVID-19 patients in a Spectrum Health ICU are unvaccinated and 94% of COVID-19 patients on a ventilator are unvaccinated.

Dr. Darryl Elmouchi, president of Spectrum Health West Michigan, said during a video update Tuesday that the health system is seeing some positive signs in its numbers.

Elmouchi says Spectrum is “nowhere near” its high point of COVID-19 patients about two weeks ago.

The health system overall had 1,042 people hospitalized at its three Grand Rapids-area hospitals, which officials say is about 100 patients less than the peak in early December. These hospitals have a combined 1,206 licensed beds.

However, the percentage of COVID-19 tests coming back positive has been increasing at Spectrum, hitting 28.8% on Tuesday. The seven-day average was 22.6%.

Elmouchi says he’s concerned that a rising positivity rate may indicate more hospitalized patients soon.

Watch Elmouchi’s full update here:

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