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Health systems say they’re ready to share the burden of rising hospitalizations

Used with permission

Some hospitals in metro Detroit are prepared to accept COVID-19 patients from regions of the state that are experiencing a sharper rise in hospitalizations. 

Beaumont Health’s chief operating officer Carolyn Wilson told Michigan Radio that the system’s eight hospitals currently have enough space in their COVID units to accept transfer patients if needed. 


“We still have some capacity there, and that is where Beaumont is willing to work with the state and those that need it to transfer some patients in,” she said. 



She says it’s the sort of assistance Beaumont could have used more of in the spring, when its ICUs were close to overflowing. The health system was able to transfer some patients, including to the University of Michigan.


But hospitals in harder-pressed parts of the state – namely, West Michigan – are first relying on improved treatments and regional support to handle the surge. 


They say a cross-state transfer would be a last resort. 


At Holland Hospital, COVID hospitalizations rose 300% over the last week. Through the summer and early fall, they cared for only a steady handful of COVID patients. As of Wednesday morning, that figure had shot up to 20, exceeding the 125-bed hospital’s peak of 15 in April. 


But Vice President of Nursing Operations Joe Bonello says for now, the hospital can handle the influx. 


In particular, he says, treatments such as the recently FDA-approved remdesivir, the steroid dexamethasone, and anticoagulants have trimmed patients’ hospital stays. 


“In the spring, patients would come in sick and then tend to get sicker, and they would stay in the hospital for really a fairly long time,” he said. “This time around, patients are coming in sick and we’re able to treat them quickly, and they get better more quickly, and go home more quickly.”


In the event that Holland Hospital can’t take on more COVID patients, said Bonello, they would work with other hospitals in the region. 


Kalamazoo’s Ascension Borgess, for example, has been accepting COVID transfers from the surrounding area, according to Dr. Ken Berkovitz, the ministry market executive for Ascension Michigan. 


He said they can accept more; during this second surge, bed space and supplies aren’t exactly the problem. 


“This time around it’s not ventilators, it’s not beds, it’s not PPE, it’s not drugs. It’s staff,” he said. 


Staff were pushed to their limit in the spring. Now, staring down a resurgence – and this time without elective procedures having been postponed – those workers risk burning out.


Dr. Gary Roth, chief medical officer at the Michigan Health and Hospital Association, echoed the concern over adequate staffing, and staff’s mental health. 


“We just all have to do the right thing to protect not only each other, but of course to protect all the health care workers,” he said. 


“We’ve heard it over and over again, we need to wear our masks, we need to maintain distance, we need to avoid crowds … as a clinician, I don’t have a simpler, cheaper, or safer prescription to assure your and my safety, our health.”

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Will Callan, a reporter for Michigan Radio, hails from the Bay Area, where he lived in Oakland and San Francisco and reported for local newspapers and magazines. He enjoys a long swim in chilly water (preferably followed by a sauna) and getting to know new cities. That's one reason he's excited to be in Ann Arbor, which he can already tell has just the right combo of urban grit and natural beauty to make him feel at home.
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