Packed with patients, Spectrum Health pushes back some procedures

Grand Rapids

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Some West Michigan hospitals are delaying procedures classified as nonessential after seeing a recent influx in the number of patients seeking care.

Spectrum Health saw one of its highest patient volumes in the history of the health system over the past week.

Dr. Josh Kooistra, the chief medical officer, says the surge in COVID-19 patients combined with an increase in patients with other conditions is forcing the hospital to push back elective surgeries and other procedures.

COVID-19 cases have not reached record high levels across the health system but doctors saw fewer patients needing care for other conditions while those previous surges were occurring.

“We have been successful at resolving those backlogs in the past. This round of deferrals is longer and more robust than we’ve had to do in previous surges,” Kooistra said. “Some of that is probably due to deferred care that people over the last year maybe didn’t seek and now has led to worsening conditions that’s leading them to have high acuity, longer length of stay to their situation.”

The hospital says it is having challenges getting people into rehabilitation or nursing facilities because those providers are also busy and dealing with staffing shortages.

A Spectrum Health patient who did not want to be identified said a procedure to improve her breathing has been delayed and she is frustrated with unvaccinated COVID-19 patients stressing hospital resources.

“My procedure has been pushed back for six weeks. I have already waited a couple months for this,” the woman said. “There are many people that I have spoken with that are unvaccinated. They refuse to get vaccinated.”

University of Michigan Health-West, formerly Metro Health, is also dealing with more patients and is rescheduling some procedures. Dr. Ron Grifka, the chief medical officer with the Wyoming hospital, said many hospitals in the area are experiencing the same challenges.

“Our COVID numbers today are higher than they’ve been for a couple weeks so it’s certainly affecting things,” Grifka said. “Right now our main focus has been trying to create an appropriate set schedule so that we do not have to cancel many cases. We have kind of cut back to a small amount the number of cases that we are scheduling.”

Doctors with both health systems are encouraging people to get vaccinated to help reduce the number of people needing hospital care.

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