Regional hospitals overrun with patients

Coronavirus

HOLLAND, Mich. (WOOD) — As Michigan’s biggest health systems remain full, administrators of smaller hospitals say they are being overrun with patients of many different illnesses, not just the coronavirus.

Joe Bonello, who serves as vice president and chief nursing officer at Holland Hospital, says they are at maximum capacity, with 40% of their beds occupied by COVID-19 patients. Right now, a true and tried solution of taking patients to another hospital is not working.

“During normal times, we routinely transfer patients among the different hospitals in the regions, regardless of what system you’re affiliated with. So, normally that’s not a challenge for us. The challenge right now isn’t we’re out of system with any of the other regional hospitals,” Bonello said. “There is no ability to transfer a patient from one hospital to another. If you’re full and you have a patient who needs to be admitted, there’s no place else to send them, because everybody’s in the same condition as we are.”

For many weeks, Spectrum Health administrators say their regional hospitals are at or near 100% occupancy, including their emergency departments. Senior Vice President of Hospital Operations, Chad Tuttle, explains they try to closely coordinate with EMS agencies for transfers as efficiently as possible, but it’s not always available.

“In those cases, we do support hospitals like Pennock and other regional hospitals with virtual provider support. In many cases, we provide some actual staffing support, as well, where we’ve redeployed the staff to make sure that we can always provide a safe level of care,” Tuttle said. “We remain very open for business, but very, very busy.”

Both administrators say a chief indicator of whether the situation will improve any time soon is the COVID-19 positivity rate. As of Wednesday, Michigan’s positivity rate is around 18% amid a climbing rate, according to state data.

“The positivity rate is one of the best indicators that we have based on what our prior experience has been in earlier surges,” Bonello said. “We know that the hospitalization rate tends to follow the positivity rate by a couple of weeks. So, we watch that carefully to see if that starts coming back down.”

Bonello and Tuttle also urge the public to not wait on any checkups, visits or routine treatment with their doctors to not increase any chances on having to wait at an ER during a severe emergency.

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