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Published in Health Care
Spectrum Health’s Pennock hospital in Hastings. Spectrum Health’s Pennock hospital in Hastings. COURTESY PHOTO

Department of Defense to dispatch medical teams to GR, Detroit hospitals amid COVID-19 surge

BY Wednesday, November 24, 2021 03:35pm

The federal government will dispatch military medical teams to Grand Rapids and the Detroit area next week to support hospitals overwhelmed with patients.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced the staffing assistance today that will include two teams of 22 medical personnel each for Spectrum Health’s Butterworth and Blodgett hospitals and Beaumont Hospital in Dearborn. The teams include registered nurses, doctors and respiratory therapists that will begin treating patients immediately and assist the hospitals for 30 days.

“On behalf of our physicians, team members and patients we are grateful for the Department of Defense medical team and appreciate support from state and federal levels as we take every measure to care for our community,” Spectrum Health President and CEO Tina Freese Decker said in a statement issued by the governor’s office this afternoon. “Working together we can address this urgent public health crisis, relieve the strain on our teams and continue to provide high quality care.”

Spectrum Health earlier today had 405 patients hospitalized with COVID-19 across its 13 hospitals, the highest number ever since the pandemic began in early 2020.

Of the COVID-19 patients at Spectrum Health hospitals, 91 percent were unvaccinated. Of the 106 COVID-19 patients who were in an intensive care unit, 94 percent were unvaccinated, according to Spectrum Health.

The combination of rising COVID-19 patients since the summer with increased volumes from pent-up demand involving people who previously delayed care and are now seeking treatment has pushed hospitals statewide to or near capacity in recent weeks.

As of Monday, when 3,923 people statewide were hospitalized with COVID-19, an increase of more than 700 people from a week earlier, Spectrum Health’s Butterworth Hospital in downtown Grand Rapids was at 92 percent capacity and Blodgett Hospital in East Grand Rapids was at 96 percent, according to a database the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services maintains. One Spectrum Health community hospital, Pennock in Hastings, was full and at 100 percent capacity as of Monday.

“I’m grateful that the federal government has granted our request to provide much-needed relief to the health care personnel who have remained on the frontlines of this pandemic,” Whitmer said. “Right now, our doctors and nurses are reporting the vast majority of their patients are unvaccinated or have not yet received a booster dose. We can all do our part to help reduce the strain on our hospital systems by getting vaccinated, making an appointment to get a booster dose, and continuing to take precautions to keep ourselves and loved ones safe.”

The state Department of Health and Human Services said that one in five hospital patients in

Michigan are COVID-19 positive. At some hospitals in the state, half of the inpatients have COVID-19.

Spectrum Health this week reinstituted visitor restrictions, and Mercy Health followed suit for its hospitals in Grand Rapids and Muskegon. Kalamazoo, Kalamazoo-based Bronson Healthcare elevated its surge status this week as well.

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