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Michigan health care workers concerned about potential fourth surge, struggling to meet need

Henry Ford Hospital, Detroit
Paulette Parker
Michigan Radio

As COVID-19 hospitalizations increase, health officials and health care workers are concerned about a fourth surge overwhelming hospitals and health care systems yet again.

There are 1,400 adults and and 17 kids hospitalized due to COVID-19 statewide as of Monday. That's just under half of the over 4,000 people who were hospitalized with the disease at height of Michigan's April surge.

Dr. Adnan Munkarah is Henry Ford's chief clinical officer. He says the health system is seeing the impacts. 

"We have gone through three major surges, and we are seeing the signs of a surge currently, with the numbers of hospitalizations increasing, as well as in our hospitals in Southeast Michigan," he said.

According to Munkarah, the health systems is at 95% bed occupancy across its five campuses. That's both COVID and non-COVID patients. Munkarah says that nearly 80% of the hospitalized COVID patients are unvaccinated, and that COVID test posivity rates for the health system are fluctuating between 9-11%.

Henry Ford, like many health systems, is facing a staffing shortage, and it's impacting how it's providing care to its patients—in-patient bed space is decreasing.

"Our health care system as well as health care systems across the region, state, and nation are facing unprecedented staffing challenges, only exacerbated by this pandemic. We've had to temporarily close 120 in-patient beds across the health system," Dr. Munkarah said.

He said those beds are mostly in their Detroit and Jackson campuses. Dr. Munkarah said patients' quality of care would not be impacted by the fewer beds.

Henry Ford's staffing shortage is impacting its policy on mandating the vaccine for its employees. According to Bob Riney, Henry Ford's Chief Operating Officer, 98% of employees have received at least one dose of the vaccine.

But he says employees who choose not to get the vaccine won't be fired, but will be suspended for three weeks. If they don't get the shot by October 1, then they will voluntarily resign.

"By voluntarily resigning, they're eligible for rehire. So if they have a change of heart at any time, they get vaccinated and they want to return to work for us, they won't have on the record that they were terminated, but rather they resigned from their employment," he said.

Editor's note: Henry Ford Health System is one of Michigan Radio's corporate sponsors.

Caroline is a third year history major at the University of Michigan. She also works at The Michigan Daily, where she has been a copy editor and an opinion columnist. When she’s not at work, you can find her down at Argo Pond as a coxswain for the Michigan men’s rowing team. Caroline loves swimming, going for walks, being outdoors, cooking, trivia, and spending time with her two-year-old cat, Pepper.
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