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Henry Ford doctor: "The strongest among us are broken," from burden of preventable COVID deaths

Doctor or nurse sitting down with hands clasped
Jonathan Borba

Henry Ford Health System says the current COVID-19 surge has its hospitals at a tipping point.

All of the system's hospitals have patients waiting in the emergency rooms for beds to free up, said Dr. John Deledda, Chair of the Department of Emergency Medicine.

Deledda said here aren't enough nurses, about 100 health care staff have landed in quarantine from breakthrough infections in the past two days alone, and doctors, nurses, and other health care workers are in unimaginable distress.

"The burden of preventable illness and death from the past two years has placed an intense emotional and cognitive load on our staff," he said during a COVID-19 update with members of the media. "The strongest among us are broken. Physically, emotionally and mentally."

Both Beaumont Hospital and Henry Ford Health system have seen a slight decrease in the number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 recently, but the numbers are still very high.

Bob Riney is President of Healthcare Operations at Henry Ford.

He says the next surge could be the worst of all.

"We are very worried about what January will bring after all the holiday gatherings, the New Year's celebrations and what looks like record-setting holiday travel, as the omicron variant picks up speed in Michigan at quite a pace," Riney said.

Riney and Deledda are urging people to get vaccinated — if only to protect the health care workers they must rely on to care for them, when they get sick - or to get their booster shots, if they are fully vaccinated.

They say people should also take steps, including masking, social distancing and limiting the size of gatherings, to protect their most vulnerable friends and relatives, including the unvaccinated, the elderly, and immunocompromised loved ones.

But people with symptoms of non-COVID related life-threatening conditions, like a heart attack or stroke, should still come to the emergency room despite the COVID surge, they said. People with less serious conditions should make an appointment to see their personal physicians, or visit an urgent care center.

Tracy Samilton covers energy and transportation, including the auto industry and the business response to climate change for Michigan Public. She began her career at Michigan Public as an intern, where she was promptly “bitten by the radio bug,” and never recovered.
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