MUSKEGON, Mich. — Staff at Mercy Health is struggling with what they're calling chaos at the Muskegon campus in the wake of the second COVID-19 surge the community is currently experiencing.
Staff is calling the work environment 'almost unbearable' with severe understaffing, lack of training and a lack of PPE. A member of the union says that many nurses and other medical professionals are expected to work 16 hour days to care for the 115 COVID patients currently being treated.
Muskegon County is currently the third highest in the state for test positivity rates. Medical experts believe the community hasn't experienced the peak of cases yet.
"We are mentally breaking down. It’s tears. You see people in tears everyday," said Darla Gallegos, Phlebotomist and Lab Assistant at Mercy Health. "It's hard. The days are so stressful you, you get in your car, and you contemplate quitting every day. You're exhausted. I love my job. I love what I do. I love my patients, but it's so stressful."
Speaking on behalf of the union, Gallegos said nurses are being asked to work on the COVID floors for the first time without proper training and an insufficient supply of PPE with "very few trained nurses and staff to care for these patients."
When asked about the complaints, the hospital responded:
"There is a national nursing shortage, which is exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Mercy Health anticipated a surge in conjunction with influenza season, which is what occurred. As with every health system in the area, staffing is challenged right now as we care for an increasing number of COVID and non-COVID patients. We are bringing in nurses from across Mercy Health and St. Joe's hospitals. We're also working with our national system, Trinity Health, to recruit out of state nurses through its First Choice and visiting nurse programs. A virtual career fair is scheduled Nov. 17-19 to help recruit more nurses into our system. Mercy Health Muskegon is also re-deploying other available clinical staff to support front line patient needs in non-COVID areas.
All colleagues were provided training at the beginning of the pandemic, and additional training has been provided throughout the course of the pandemic. Mercy Health Muskegon is also offering COVID-19 Refresher Education Fairs this week and ongoing for colleagues."