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COVID-19 surge forces U-M Health to cancel surgeries

hospital exterior
Michigan Medicine

Michigan Medicine canceled at least 40 surgeries as of Wednesday due to a high volume of COVID-19 cases combined with staffing shortages.

“Michigan Medicine is now experiencing one of its highest surges of COVID-19 patients, while also continuing to take care of many patients with cancer, cardiovascular disease, and other life-threatening conditions," said Dr. David Miller, president of the University of Michigan Health System.

Miller said the overwhelming majority of COVID-19 inpatients are unvaccinated.

All nine COVID-19 patients on ventilators were unvaccinated as of December 5.

Miller said capacity constraints and staffing shortages caused Michigan Medicine to close beds in its pediatric critical care unit to ensure better staffing in its emergency and intensive care units.

Emergency services are also experiencing heavy crowding and overflow. But Miller said the surge is not a reason to stay home in the event of a medical emergency.

He also said fewer appointments are available for patients eligible to receive monoclonal antibody treatments. The treatment can reduce hospitalizations and death for some patients with COVID-19. And Michigan Medicine leaders emphasized at the press conference that the treatment is not a substitute for vaccination.

Michigan Medicine leaders urged people to get vaccinated and those already vaccinated to get a booster dose at a press conference Wednesday. They also advised that those gathering with unvaccinated individuals for the holidays should wear masks.

“Vaccination is the only way out of this pandemic,” said Dr. Marschall Runge, CEO of Michigan Medicine, dean of U-M Medical School and executive vice president for medical affairs at the University of Michigan. “And the unvaccinated are not just risking your own lives or those of your loved ones from COVID-19. You're risking the lives of others who may die of preventable diseases who can't get their needed health care.”

There are upwards of 400 unfilled positions in the health system.

A federal judge temporarily suspended the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services' vaccine mandate that was to go into effect January 4 forcing Michigan Medicine to suspend its vaccine mandate for union employees.

Runge said 92% of the health system’s non-union employees are vaccinated. Nurses, the majority of which are covered by the union, are not required to report their vaccination status. But Laraine Washer, the medical director for infection control, said 83% of the nurses reported that they are vaccinated.

Sophia Kalakailo joined Michigan Radio in Sept. 2021 and is a senior at Michigan State University studying journalism and minoring in documentary production. She previously interned at Bridge Michigan and was an editor for The State News and The Eastern Echo covering a wide range of topics.
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