Officials with three major West Michigan health systems reported Friday that their hospitals are at, or near, capacity with COVID-19 patients, test positivity rates are at record highs, and worker fatigue is at its worst levels of the pandemic.
The fourth surge is proving to be the worst and most taxing yet as COVID-19 cases have increased gradually in recent weeks compared to surges roughly a year ago and in the spring, officials from Spectrum Health, Mercy Health Saint Mary’s and University of Michigan Health-West reported during a virtual press conference today.
Dr. Darryl Elmouchi, president of Spectrum Health West Michigan, reported a total of 455 COVID-19 patients at its hospitals, including 126 adults and one pediatric patient in the intensive care unit.
“This is beyond capacity, and those numbers keep going up,” Elmouchi said.
The Grand Rapids-based health system also has a 24.2-percent rolling seven-day average of positive COVID-19 tests, which Elmouchi called “unprecedented in West Michigan.”
“We have had a steady, gradual climb up for two to three weeks. We’re now well beyond anything we’ve seen before here in West Michigan with hospitalized patients, at least at Spectrum Health,” he said. “I wish we could say we’re on our way down.”
Elmouchi also disclosed that Spectrum Health has had to deny about 700 requests to accept patients from other hospitals over the past 45 days.
“Historically, we’d accept those patients,” he said.
Mercy Health Saint Mary’s President Dr. Matt Biersack and University of Michigan Health-West President and CEO Dr. Peter Hahn echoed much of Elmouchi’s experience. As has been the case for weeks, a vast majority of COVID-19 patients and patients on ventilators are unvaccinated, officials said.
Hahn called the current surge “absolutely a time of reckoning” for the health care system that’s acting as the front line against COVID-19 amid widespread staff burnout and workers leaving the field.
“Yet we all hold the line for the community,” he said.
The health system, formerly known as Metro Health — University of Michigan Health, has had to delay or cancel more than 70 procedures over the past two weeks, while emergency room wait times can span three to six hours, Hahn said.
“And we’re having difficulty getting patients to short-term nursing facilities because of their own staffing issues,” Hahn said.
Biersack reported Mercy Health Saint Mary’s has a 98 percent occupancy rate while its intensive care unit is 100 percent full.
The three doctors added that vaccinations and immunization will be “the only way” out of the pandemic.
“We’re not going to treat our way through this,” Hahn said.