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State officials have approved 54 additional inpatient hospital beds at Spectrum Health’s Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital if the capacity is needed. State officials have approved 54 additional inpatient hospital beds at Spectrum Health’s Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital if the capacity is needed. PHOTO COURTESY OF SPECTRUM HEALTH

Spectrum Health approved for 54 additional hospital beds in case COVID surge worsens

BY Tuesday, December 28, 2021 01:30pm

GRAND RAPIDS — Spectrum Health can temporarily add another 54 inpatient hospital beds in Grand Rapids should a surge in patients from the COVID-19 pandemic worsen in the coming weeks.

The emergency approval from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services gives Spectrum Health the ability to add even more impatient bed capacity if needed, although the health system right now does not anticipate having to use the additional 54 beds.

In seeking and quickly receiving the emergency approval last week, “we are preparing for all scenarios,” Chief Operating Officer Brian Brasser said today. 

“These are for us to build out contingency space so that if this surge does worsen that we have space that is minimally suitable to be able to effectively take care of additional patients,” Brasser said. “This is so we’re well-prepared in the event that things do intensify.”

Under existing licensing and prior emergency approvals, Spectrum Health has already added 40 beds at Butterworth Hospital in downtown Grand Rapids and will add another 40 in January. Blodgett Hospital in East Grand Rapids has added 67 beds and another 18 are planned for January.

Bed capacity has been added in some instances by turning private hospital rooms into semi-private status at all of Spectrum’s hospitals, Brasser said. As well, Spectrum Health has been delaying elective procedures that require a hospital stay.

In the Dec. 20 request to the state to add the 54 beds at Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital, Spectrum Health said it is “currently surging beyond capacity due to the number of COVID-19 patients we are caring for, but also, what we believe is deferred care because of the global pandemic.” 

Under the emergency approval that remains in effect for a year, Spectrum Health would put 33 beds in the 11th floor of Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital in converted space now used for offices. Another 21 beds would go on the first floor of the hospital in space now occupied by a cafeteria that Spectrum Health would convert.

If needed, Spectrum Health would use the 54 beds for inpatients with low acuity medical conditions “in order to allow COVID and higher acuity patients to be treated in our standard rooms,” according to the request.

Spectrum Health over the last couple of weeks has seen a “bit of easing” in inpatient volumes, “which is pretty common for the holidays,” Brasser said. COVID-19 hospitalizations for a week and a half were declining, then leveled off, and since late last week “we are seeing a slight uptick,” he said.

Spectrum Health’s positivity rate of people getting tested for COVID-19 has been rising and as of Monday was at 28.8 percent, with a seven-day average rate of 22.6 percent, Brasser said.

As of today, Spectrum Health had 383 COVID-19 patients across its 14 hospitals, 84 percent of whom are unvaccinated. More than 90 percent of COVID-19 patients in a Spectrum Health ICU, and 94 percent on a ventilator, are unvaccinated.

The health system overall had 1,042 people hospitalized at its three Grand Rapids-area hospitals, which is about 100 patients below the peak in early December, Brasser said. The hospitals combined have a little more than 1,200 licensed beds.

A state dashboard listed Blodgett Hospital at 100 percent capacity and Butterworth Hospital at 98 percent as of Monday.

If hospitalizations in the Grand Rapids area increase by another 200 patients, “we would potentially have to look at opening these” beds under the Dec. 20 emergency approval, Brasser said.

‘They are tired’

Brasser worries about the effects of the omicron virus variant, its transmissibility and how that may equate to a “significant number of positive patients,” and “the impact that could have on hospital services, as well as the impact that could have on our health care workers,” he said.

“They are tired. This has been a long two years,” said Brasser, who called last week’s 30-day extension of a military medical team’s deployment to assist doctors and nurses at Butterworth Hospital “very, very welcome news.”

“It certainly is validation of the strain that our system is under and that health care in general is under,” he said.

The emergency approval for Spectrum Health to add beds came as some hospitals have been pushed to capacity from rising COVID-19 cases and pent-up demand for care involving patients who previously delayed seeking treatment and now have a condition that has since worsened, requiring longer hospital stays.

Spectrum Health previously received emergency approval in November from the state to add 28 temporary inpatient beds at Butterworth Hospital.

In Muskegon, Mercy Health received emergency state approval earlier this month to add 37 beds at the 331-bed Sherman Boulevard hospital campus to handle high patient volumes amid the current COVID-19 case surge.

As well, Mercy Health Muskegon this week will get federal support to care for a surge in patients hospitalized with COVID-19. Beginning Thursday, a 17-person military medical team of nurses, doctors and others will assist Mercy Health Muskegon for 30 days to help care providers who are treating COVID-19 and other patients.

Statewide, 3,839 people were hospitalized with COVID-19 as of Monday, including 860 who were in an ICU, according to a state dashboard. That’s up from the 3,750 COVID-19 patients across the state four days earlier, 882 of whom were in an ICU, but down from a peak of 4,736 two weeks ago.

The state on Monday listed several hospitals at 100 percent capacity, such as Sparrow Hospital in Lansing and Spectrum Health’s Reed City Hospital. Others above 90 percent include Ascension Borgess and Bronson Methodist in Kalamazoo, Bronson Battle Creek, Holland Hospital, and University of Michigan Health-West (formerly Metro Health).

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