Hospitals filling amid COVID-19 surge


***Editor’s note: This story has been updated to clarify that North Ottawa Community Hospital is still accepting new patients and the emergency room remains open.***

GRAND HAVEN, Mich. (WOOD) — North Ottawa Community Hospital remains near capacity as coronavirus cases continue surge in West Michigan and across the state.

While seeing an influx of patients and having staffing shortages, the hospital continues to accept new patients and the emergency room remains open.

NOCHS spokesperson Jennifer VanSkiver said more staff members are testing positive for the virus, which is worsening the problem of providing care. The annual flu season isn’t helping, either. While NOCHS continues to perform some elective surgeries, it is not accepting transfers.

In the absence of a national plan, VanSkiver said, local hospital have been working together to share the burden of COVID-19 cases. But they’re also competing for staff.

The good news, she continued, is that doctors know much more now about treating COVID-19 than they did in the spring, so more people are recovering after contracting it.

Mercy Health Muskegon, meanwhile, says it is opening a an extra unit at the Hackley Campus starting Thursday to care for a rising number of COVID-19 patients.

“Muskegon County is seeing one of the most significant surges of COVID cases in the state,” Dr. Justin Grill, chief medical officer of Mercy Health Muskegon, said in a Tuesday statement. “We are fortunate to have the Hackley Campus available to activate as an alternative COVID care site. This will help alleviate the burden on the Mercy Campus.”

According to state data, Mercy Campus has 142 COVID-19 inpatients, 32 of whom are in intensive care, a bed occupancy rate of 86%.

The new unit at Hackley will start with 10 beds and then grow to 20 in the next seven days. COVID-19 patients sent there will be in stable condition.

Statewide, there are more than 3,300 hospital patients confirmed to have COVID-19 and about a another 400 suspected to have it. In recent days, leaders of privately-held hospital systems across the state have pleaded for people to abide by coronavirus mitigation practices — hand washing, social distancing and mask wearing — to flatten the curve and keep them from being overrun.

VanSkiver, the NOCHS spokesperson, said that the state did a good job in the last six month of keeping the virus at bay but at some point “let our foot off the gas” amid pandemic fatigue, leading to the current surge.

“Please help hospitals,” she said. “Know that this is temporary.”

Grand Rapids-based Spectrum Health said last week it was nearing capacity. As of Wednesday morning, it had 328 COVID-19 inpatients across all its hospitals.

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