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Ambulances divert to other medical facilities as COVID pushes hospitals to max capacity

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Posted at 9:03 PM, Nov 26, 2021
and last updated 2021-11-26 22:18:15-05

OTTAWA COUNTY, Mich. — FOX 17 has learned more and more hospitals are at capacity. This means hospitals have to divert ambulances to other medical facilities. 

It's a measure to push ambulances to hospitals that have room for patients and has become more common as we see a surge in COVID-19 patients in West Michigan.

"This is the first time that we've been on diversion in my 20 years at Holland Hospital," Vice President & Chief of Nursing at Holland Hospital Joe Bonello said.

Holland Hospital is full. Bonello said they are fully staffed but all 142 beds are full of patients who need care.

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"Yeah, and patients in the waiting room," Bonello added. "We went on diversion. We were able to come off diversion for a while. And then we had to go back on diversion because the emergency department got backed up."

Holland Hospital isn't the only medical facility impacted by a large number of patients.

"For all three hospitals in Ottawa County to be on diversion at the same time — I don't recall that ever happening before in the 20-plus years I've been here," Region 6 Medical Director Dr. Jerry Evans said.

When West Michigan faces a medical crisis, Evans oversees and coordinates with the coalition of hospitals and EMS agencies in our 13 counties.

"Fortunately, all three hospitals are working absolutely their best to get their ERs open again, for all ambulances, and they are doing that periodically. So they'll be on diversion for a couple of hours, then they'll go back off and then go back on or off. And that's part of life in emergency medicine right now," Evans told FOX 17.

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What happens if you need to go to the emergency room? Evans explains there's a good chance you're going to wait for care. However, for those real emergencies like a heart attack, calling 911 and getting the proper care right away is going to help.

"Don't fear calling 911," Evans said. "Our ambulances are there; they are available. We are getting patients into our hospitals that may be a 10-minute drive a little further. Let me tell you that that 10 minutes can make a big difference. If you're not getting the care you need, our EMS personnel are excellent."

Bonello says 40% of their inpatient care have COVID, and most of them are unvaccinated. He says if they didn't have one COVID patient, they would have plenty of beds and staff to take care of anyone who walked into their hospital.

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