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A fifth Michigan hospital will get support from a military medical team

a patient in a hospital bed waits in the hallway of a hospital.
Lester Graham
Michigan Radio
A patient waits in the hallway of a Michigan hospital.

A fifth team of military medical staff will be headed to Michigan to help the state’s overwhelmed hospitals.

The new team is expected to arrive at Henry Ford Wyandotte Hospital in the coming weeks. Military medical teams are already working at hospitals in Saginaw, Dearborn, Grand Rapids, and Muskegon.

Leaders at Henry Ford Health System say the federal help is welcome, but it won’t be enough to make up for the rising number of COVID-19 patients, and staff shortages.

“Even our care teams know it doesn’t begin to solve problems,” said Bob Riney, chief operating officer for Henry Ford Health System, in a briefing Thursday. “But it solves some. And that is not only a real benefit, but it’s also a producer of hope. And that’s important.”

Leaders at Henry Ford Health say the number of COVID-19 patients continues to rise in their hospitals - up about 10% just since last week. And more staff are also testing positive for the virus.

Thursday, Riney said nearly 600 staff were out with COVID-19, and the hospital system had 87 fewer beds because it didn’t have enough people to staff them.

A non-military federal team of healthcare workers arrived to help at Henry Ford Wyandotte at the start of this week. That team, a civilian Disaster Medical Assistance Team, will spend 14 days at the hospital. The military medical team will arrive afterward, Riney said.

“It’s two phases of support,” Riney said, adding that he expects the military team to stay at the hospital for 30 days once it arrives later this month.

That team will be able to staff about 24 beds at the hospital - less than a third of the total number of unstaffed beds across Henry Ford Health System right now.

The health system’s leaders project that, even with the added support, they will continue to face challenges under a rising number of COVID-19 cases.

Dr. Adnan Munkarah is chief clinical officer for Henry Ford. He says despite signs that a new variant of COVID-19 is less severe, it’s also causing more infection.

“Although the percentage of people that get sick or might die is much smaller …the total numbers are much bigger,” Munkarah said. “So we are going to see, unfortunately, a bigger negative impact - you know, a bad outcome - if we don’t control it.”

Dustin Dwyer reports enterprise and long-form stories from Michigan Public’s West Michigan bureau. He was a fellow in the class of 2018 at the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard. He’s been with Michigan Public since 2004, when he started as an intern in the newsroom.
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