W. MI hospitals work to keep up with patient increase

Coronavirus

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Hospital capacity in West Michigan is getting stretched thin with some health systems having to push back elective surgeries and reassign staff.

The hospitals with a low capacity are working to free up space but continue to have a significant portion of resources being used to treat COVID-19 patients.

Spectrum Health Chief Operating Officer Brian Brasser says the staff has been working additional hours to meet the need.

“We’ve been very, very busy in our hospitals. We’ve been running a much higher census than is typical for this time of year,” Brasser said.

The latest state hospital census numbers from Monday show Spectrum Blodgett at 96% capacity and Spectrum Butterworth at 91% capacity.

“Part of that is attributed to the COVID-19 surge that we’re seeing,” Brasser said. “We’re running about 150 COVID-19 positive patients across our West Michigan hospitals. Just over 100 of those are in our Grand Rapids hospitals.”

Doctors say the most severe patients are often transferred to bigger city hospitals from small towns because they have additional resources to provide care, which adds to the numbers. Spectrum is now accepting fewer patients from other parts of the state. The hospital system also has reduced elective surgeries over the past two weeks to free up more staff.

“Making sure that patients are able to transition to the next level of care when they’re ready. Making sure we understand exactly what our capacity is,” Brasser said.

Metro Health has also been working to free up capacity, according to Chief Medical Officer Dr. Ron Grifka.

The hospital used a similar approach and has freed up some capacity from more than 90% of beds full last Thursday to 70% on Monday.

“Once you get over 82%, it gets challenging,” Grifka said. “We were able to maintain as much of the normal functions of the hospital as we could. We did cancel a number of surgical procedures.”

Metro Health Hospital saw an increase in the number of patients who needed care for other conditions or diseases, but COVID-19 patients continue to come through its doors.

The hospital is not seeing nearly as many patients as it saw at the height of the pandemic, but doctors have seen a recent increase fueled in part by the more contagious delta variant.

“We have seen a number more patients coming to the emergency room with COVID than we saw certainly in July and August. The good news is many of them can be discharged to home, the bad news is a number of them are being admitted and they’re actually quite ill. Many of them lining up in the intensive care unit,” Grifka said. “It’s a much younger population and they have less other medical conditions.”

Doctors are urging more people to get vaccinated to help reduce the need for COVID-19 hospitalizations.

CORRECTION: A previous version of this article misspelled the name of Dr. Ron Grifka. We regret the error and it has been corrected.

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