Nurse of 32 years: I have never ‘seen anything like this’

Coronavirus

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A nurse who has spent more than three decades taking care of critically ill patients says the current situation at Mercy Health Muskegon is unlike anything she has ever experienced, including working in the emergency room during the H1N1 pandemic a decade ago.

Michelle Bierman runs the COVID-19 unit at the Muskegon hospital. Currently, 99 patients are being treated there for COVID-19, the highest inpatient figure across Michigan Mercy and Saint Joseph’s facilities right now.

Last month, the hospital moved to open beds at the previously-closed Hackley Campus to keep up with the surge.

“We went very quickly from a census of 15, which was an intermix of both med surge and ICU, to very quickly within a two-week period of having a 40-bed ICU unit and taking over all but two of our floors in the hospital,” Bierman told News 8 Tuesday. “I have never, in all of my 32 years of nursing, ever seen anything like this.”

Not every dashboard tracking COVID-19 cases at West Michigan health systems breaks patient cases down by facility. 

According to Mercy Health’s dashboard, 396 patients were being treated for the virus statewide Tuesday. Spectrum Health listed 302 positive inpatient cases. Metro Health’s dashboard listed 51 people hospitalized.

“At the worst point, we were seeing almost 30 patients waiting for beds in our ER for days,” Bierman added. “We had an eight-hour wait in our ER. We had physicians up front and seeing patients in the waiting room, but they had to wait to get a bed because we were that overloaded.”

Bierman credits the state’s recent pause for getting their workload back to a manageable level.

“I don’t want to go back to two and half weeks ago when we had to decide who’s getting that ICU bed,” the director said. “I want to be where we’re at right now, where this is manageable, and we have the beds available.”

She hopes people recognize the collective support needed to keep beds available.

“We want to get back to normal. We want to have it where our patients can have their loved ones at the bedside, and we cannot do that without the community’s support and following these guidelines,” Bierman said.

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