Michigan’s third COVID-19 surge is “like a runaway train,” Dr. Nick Gilpin, Beaumont Health’s medical director of infection prevention and epidemiology, said Thursday.
More than 800 coronavirus patients fill all eight of the hospitals in the state’s largest health care system, “taxing our staff and our resources,” Gilpin said, yet there’s no policy in place this time to restrict in-person dining, sports or schools, where the virus is known to spread.
It has left Beaumont in a place where it is beginning to put up modular triage units and tents outside some of its hospitals to manage the stress on its emergency rooms. Curbside triage units already are in use at its Grosse Pointe and Troy hospitals. A tent is up outside the Dearborn hospital, said Mark Geary, a spokesperson for the health system.
The health system also is postponing some non-urgent surgeries and procedures that would require at least an overnight stay, such as knee replacements or knee reconstruction surgeries, on a case-by-case basis, Gilpin said. Cancer surgeries and other urgent medical services, he noted, are continuing.
With all of its hospitals at 90% to 95% capacity, Beaumont can’t take much more, he said.
“If we continue to see COVID numbers rise, we’ll have to make some accommodations, open up some additional beds,” he said. “The challenge here … is where are we going to get the staff from? We can manufacture beds. We can open up beds. We can create entire wings of the hospital if we have to, but if we don’t have staff for those beds, we’ve got nothing.”
The hospital system has brought in nurses from supplemental staffing agencies, redeployed workers to more crucial areas and called retirees back in to work. Some nurses and other staff members are also picking up extra shifts, said Susan Grant, Beaumont Health’s chief nursing officer. But it is reaching a point where that won’t be enough.
“After having done this for over a year now, our nurses, our doctors, respiratory therapists, our teams, they’re tired, and they’re worn,” Grant said. “They’re not only physically tired, and they’re emotionally tired. … They want this to go away.
“They have seen a lot of death over the last year, and now they are experiencing and seeing younger people who are in our ICU (intensive care unit) beds who are very, very sick, … and some who are dying.”
It’s a situation unfolding at hospitals around the state as the seven-day average coronavirus case rate in Michigan continues to lead the nation at 551.6 cases per 100,000 people, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Since the pandemic began, 770,822 Michiganders have contracted the virus and 16,731 have died, according to the state health department.
More than 4,000 Michiganders with confirmed cases of COVID-19 were hospitalized Thursday, according to state data. Of them, 838 were in intensive care units. That’s more than a 460% rise in hospitalizations compared with Feb. 25, when 709 coronavirus patients were hospitalized and 175 were in intensive care units.
At Henry Ford Health System, five of its hospitals are 90% capacity or higher, said Bob Riney, COO and president of health care operations. The health system is caring for more than 550 coronavirus patients.
“Staffing continues to be our biggest worry,” he said. “We continue to redeploy those working in nonclinical areas to support the clinical areas. Our workers are exhausted.”
They also are not only working in hospital COVID-19 units, but are working at vaccination clinics and at infusion centers, where efforts are underway to…