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Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital in Grand Rapids. Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital in Grand Rapids. COURTESY PHOTO

Corewell Health files emergency request to add capacity at DeVos Children’s Hospital amid RSV surge 

BY Monday, November 21, 2022 12:14pm

GRAND RAPIDS — Corewell Health wants to temporarily add capacity at Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital in Grand Rapids to handle a surge in young patients with respiratory syncytial virus (RSV).

The health system late last week filed an emergency request with the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services seeking approval to add 48 beds at DeVos Children’s Hospital “to address patient treatment capacity issues related to a surge in RSV cases and maintain patient safety on an emergency basis.”

“The health and well-being of our patients is of utmost concern. Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital, like pediatric hospitals across the country, is surging with children who are sick with RSV. Combined with cold and flu season and COVID-19, we expect the current RSV surge could last for many weeks,” Corewell Health said today in a statement to MiBiz that explained the filing as a precautionary measure. “While we hope we will not need all these beds, we want to be prepared to care for children who are ill. Our community can rest assured that we are ready to care for children and their families. While we are surging and emergency room wait times may be longer than usual, we are open and able to care for children who need us.”

Corewell Health this morning had 87 patients with RSV, 67 of whom were hospitalized at DeVos Children’s Hospital, including 28 patients in ICU beds. The other 20 RSV patients were at Blodgett Hospital in East Grand Rapids, Butterworth Hospital and the Meijer Heart Center in downtown Grand Rapids, and Corewell Health’s Big Rapids hospital.

The RSV outbreak that began in mid-October has pushed patient volumes higher at children’s hospitals.

A common, highly contagious virus that typically strikes in Michigan between November and March, RSV “usually leads to a large number of children seeking medical care each year,” Dr. Jerry Evans, medical director for the 13-county Region 6 Healthcare Coalition, wrote in a Nov. 17 open letter explaining the outbreak.

Consisting of hospitals, emergency medical services, and support organizations, the Region 6 Healthcare Coalition covers Clare, Ionia, Isabella, Kent, Lake, Mason, Mecosta, Montcalm, Muskegon, Newaygo, Oceana, Osceola and Ottawa counties.

“Our pediatric hospitals are already at or near capacity throughout the state and the surge of RSV and influenza is just beginning. This surge may last up to 10 weeks. Children and the elderly are the most susceptible to serious cases of RSV and influenza. COVID is still around as well and is still leading to some hospitalizations. We may see a surge in this as well,” Evans wrote. “Some of these children need to be hospitalized, but most do very well. Because of the masking and isolation protocols in place over the past two years, there have not been very many cases of RSV in Michigan.

“This also means that most children under three years old have never been exposed to RSV. This may lead to more children than usual coming down with RSV.”

Corewell Health, recently renamed from Spectrum Health after the Feb. 1 merger with Southfield-based Beaumont Health, and many other health systems across the state sought and quickly received emergency approval in 2020 and 2021 to add bed capacity to handle COVID-19 patient surges. As several hospitals across Michigan neared or exceeded capacity, the state generally approved those requests within just a few days.

Under the emergency request submitted Nov. 17 to the state to handle an RSV patient surge, DeVos Children’s Hospital would add 12 emergency beds on the seventh floor that would go with 12 beds previously approved earlier in the pandemic to “allow for cohorting of pediatric patients in the existing 24 patient rooms,” according to a letter of intent filed Nov. 17 with the state. Corewell also intends to seek designation for 43 beds from the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs.

Another 12 temporary beds included in last week’s emergency request would go on the sixth floor at DeVos Children’s Hospital. Corewell Health also seeks to use 14 beds previously approved during the pandemic to create a 24-room RSV unit with a treatment room and playroom, and seek ICU designation for all 50 beds on the sixth floor.

The remaining 24 beds sought through the Nov. 17 emergency request would go on the eighth floor that houses DeVos Children’s Hospital’s ICU. As well, the health system would seek ICU designation for those beds, according to the letter of intent to the state.

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