Mercy Health St. Mary's and Mercy Health Muskegon are feeling the weight of the pandemic yet again — and worse than ever before.
St. Mary's is over 100% capacity for beds. Currently, occupancy stands at 103%. That means they are caring for more people than ever before, and have expanded out units to meet current needs.
“We reached out to some of the regulators of the state to expand our capacity for beds. We’ve had to tap into that reserve,” Infectious Disease Division Chief for Mercy Health St. Mary's Dr. Andrew Jameson said.
Doctors and nurses aren't giving up, despite knowing the current situation is entirely preventable.
“This is us shifting resources around, and trying to take care of the people who hit our doors. St. Mary’s is really determined to not end up shutting our doors. So we will keep getting stretched as far as we can, to serve the community,” Jameson said.
It's a grim reality for doctors and nurses, especially during the holidays. Visitor restrictions, recently re-implemented, mean medical workers are often the only people there for patients who are critically ill.
“Everyone is super tired, and just sick of this. They’re sick of people dying that don’t need to be dying,” Jameson said.
Nearly all of the people in the hospital who are dying or really sick are not vaccinated.
Dr. Jameson, who specializes in Infectious Disease at Mercy Health, says COVID is mostly spreading at home.
Jameson says parents ages 30-50 make up a majority of the ICU. Caring for children sick with COVID likely put them there, he says. The more virus someone is exposed to over a prolonged period of time will increase their likelihood of being critically ill. That's why Dr. Jameson says it's important to wear masks, even in your own home, to limit the amount of exposure.
He says most breakthrough cases among those who are vaccinated are happening for the same reason: prolonged exposure in an indoor setting without proper precautions.
Surgeries may also be delayed, as there's simply not enough room at the hospital.
“There are some procedures that are not necessarily urgent, but really need to be done in a timely fashion. Now those are being put on hold. People have been preparing for things for a long time, and they can’t get those things done. They can’t get them done, because if they get operated on in the hospital, there are no beds to put them in," Jameson said.
Emergency room wait times will also be longer, given the current volume of patients. Dr. Jameson says health care workers are doing their best to fight the disinformation that landed them in this position in the first place.
“How divided our country is politically has transferred into a divide medically. People are reading and believing things that are just blatantly untrue. That’s resulting in them avoiding getting vaccinated, avoiding getting the care they need, and resulting in delays in coming to the hospital and bad outcomes,” Jameson said.