Spectrum: Defense Dept. reinforcement helps, doesn’t solve staffing crisis

Coronavirus

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A team of medical professionals from the military are finishing up their first week of deployment to assist with the surge of COVID-19 patients at Spectrum Health.

Doctors, nurses, respiratory therapists and administrative positions are providing the assistance.

About 20 service members are assigned between Spectrum Butterworth and Spectrum Blodgett hospitals.

Capt. Chavez Scott is an emergency medicine physician with the U.S. Army who has been assigned to the intensive care unit at Blodgett.

Four doctors have been integrated into hospital system operations, including a critical care specialist. They began treating patients on Monday following orientation last weekend.

“All the rooms are filled where you constantly kind of … shuffle in trying to make sure that we get all the patients into the room, get them on a ventilator, treat them appropriately,” Scott said.

Spectrum Blodgett typically has between 10 or 12 patients in its ICU but now has increased to more than forty, according to Scott.

The latest numbers available showed the hospital at 99% capacity as of Thursday. Spectrum Butterworth was at 96% capacity.

Julie Bulson, an administrator with Spectrum Health who oversees a team that handles disaster planning for the hospital, says the help is greatly appreciated.

“It gives our staff just a little bit of a relief, but we still do definitely have a fair amount of open positions. It by no means has solved our staffing crisis at all. It is a support for the next 30 days,” Bulson said.

Spectrum Health’s latest numbers from Tuesday showed 86% of COVID-19 patients are unvaccinated. In the intensive care units, 93% of patients are unvaccinated.

The total count of hospitalized patients is now more than 450, according to numbers provided on the medical provider’s online dashboard.

“We’ve seen a prolonged surge volume over the last couple of months with a greater than 20% increase in our volumes despite the fact that we have differed surgeries over the last several months,” Bulson said.

Scott says the team has received an outpouring of support from Spectrum employees for assisting with the surge.

“We hit the ground running, and we have been helping out with the surge, and you can just see the relief for everybody’s face, the tremendous amount of support that we’ve been providing so I’m just happy to be here. Happy to help out,” Scott said.

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