MUSKEGON, Mich. (WOOD) — In just one month, Muskegon County has doubled the total number of COVID-19 deaths reported, recording an additional 96 deaths in November alone.
One of the top medical officials at Mercy Health in Muskegon said this jump isn’t a reflection of the quality of care given, rather it’s a direct result of the sheer number of COVID-19 patients they’re seeing.
“A doubling of deaths is actually, from a relative perspective, is pretty good,” Dr. Justin Grill, chief medical officer of Mercy Health Muskegon, said. “Because our cases went up by four to five times, but our deaths only doubled. So, what that would suggest is that we’re doing a good job taking care of the people, but the sheer volume of COVID patients and the increase (in patients) leads to the increase in deaths, which is exactly what you’d expect to see.”
This influx in patient load can be seen in the number of coronavirus patients discharged per month.
Throughout the summer, Grill said their hospital discharged an average of 30 to 35 coronavirus patients per month. In October, the number of COVID-19 patients discharged jumped to 82, followed by a whopping 385 patients discharged in November alone.
Grill said this surge of patients has no doubt taken its toll on the hospital, especially the staff.
“You can’t just go out and quickly obtain other staff,” Grill said. “They have to be credentialed and well-trained. Obviously, you can’t just take nurses and doctors off the street and put them into those roles.”
Grill said Mercy Health Muskegon has been able to bring on some additional staff members to help lighten the load, but there’s not easing the pain of losing one patient after another to the same virus.
“You work so hard to take care of your patients and do a good job, but sometimes no matter how good of a job you do, the care of that patient ends in their death,” Grill said. “When you start to see that happen, sometimes four times a night or five times in a shift that is really, really difficult on our staff who are working so hard for their patients.”
Mercy Health’s growing patient load impacts more than just the Muskegon area.
Grill said they’ve had to transfer some of their coronavirus patients to hospitals in Grand Rapids because of their capacity.
At the same time, Mercy Health Muskegon has gotten to the point where they’ve been unable to accept referrals of coronavirus patients from outlying hospitals in neighboring areas.
“The trickle-down effect really does hit the smaller, more rural and critical access hospitals to a disproportionate degree once the referral centers aren’t able to accept those patients,” Grill said.