Crowded Conditions, Overloaded Services Mark ‘Serious’ COVID-19 Situation at Michigan Medicine – Community News
Covid-19

Crowded Conditions, Overloaded Services Mark ‘Serious’ COVID-19 Situation at Michigan Medicine

ANN ARBOR, MI – Rising COVID-19 Cases. Overcrowded beds. Insufficient capacity to perform other important operations.

The ongoing wave of the Delta variant has hit Michigan Medicine facilities in the Ann Arbor area hard, officials said at a news conference on Wednesday. In Washtenaw County alone, that means 2,235 cases in the past week, 4% of those requiring hospitalization. It also means 11 deaths, according to data from the Washtenaw County Health Department.

This influx of infections has created “a plight” with ripple effects in Michigan Medicine’s health system, said CEO Dr. Marshall Runge.

“The bottom line is that COVID-19 is not just life-threatening for those who have COVID-19,” he said. “The wave of COVID-19 is putting others at risk by stopping us from providing life-saving care.”

As of Wednesday morning, Dec. 8, there are 110 hospitalized patients with confirmed or suspected cases of COVID-19, Runge said. This extends the hospital well beyond normal bed capacity, said Dr. John Carethers, chair of internal medicine at UM Health.

“Our internal medicine physicians are likely to provide about 280 to 290 beds (for all medical issues, including COVID-19),” he said. “But instead we provide an average of 340 to 350 beds, for which we were not structured.”

As Runge said, these capacity issues lead to difficulties in providing other medical services. About 40 surgeries have been canceled in the past week due to lack of beds, said Dr. David Miller, president of UM Health.

“People have died and people will die from non-COVID-19 disease in our area, across the state and across our country because COVID-19 is flooding hospitals,” Miller said.

The main theme among COVID-19 patients – the majority of them are not vaccinated. According to a Michigan Medicine chart from Wednesday, all patients on the ventilator have not been vaccinated, while 16 of the 22 patients in the ICU are also unvaccinated. Another 57 of the 87 other hospitalized patients are also unvaccinated, the graph shows.

“Vaccination is the only way out of this pandemic,” Runge said, with Carethers adding, “There’s no real reason not to get vaccinated.”

Carethers pointed out that routine vaccinations such as the hepatitis B and flu vaccinations are so safe that there is “a one in a million chance” of serious side effects. The risk is even lower with the COVID-19 vaccines, and the consequences of catching COVID-19 without that protection are statistically worse, he said.

“If you’re not vaccinated, you have about a 5.8-fold risk of testing positive for COVID-19 and a 14-fold greater risk of dying,” he said. “So vaccination helps you prevent that.”

“The biggest predictor of not being in our hospital or not going to the ICU is that you need to get vaccinated,” he said.

read more: COVID-19 Q&A: What’s up with natural immunity? How many deaths related to the vaccine?

Michigan Medicine has also updated its employees’ vaccine status, as about 92% of all employees are vaccinated, Runge said. That does not apply to those who are not required to report by their negotiation agreements.

While three different federal orders, including one from President Joe Biden, sought to nullify negotiation agreements that did not require vaccinations for federal employees, a US court decision in Georgia overturned those mandates.

That said, about 83% of the workers in these bargaining agreements have been vaccinated, Runge said. Among Michigan Medicine nurses, that number is likely higher than 83%, said Nancy May, chief nurse at UM Health.

read more: Federal COVID vaccine mandate takes precedence over employee contracts at University of Michigan, Michigan Medicine

Other tips to reduce transmission include wearing masks indoors, especially during holiday gatherings, officials said.

“I will say that large gatherings are a problem,” says Dr. Laraine Washer, clinical professor of infectious diseases at UM Health. “Small gatherings are also a problem for unvaccinated people who don’t wear a mask in an indoor area that doesn’t have proper ventilation.”

The UM campus outside of medical facilities has experienced two peaks after times of increasing social gatherings. According to UM data, the number nearly tripled to 243 cases in the week after Halloween and the UM-MSU football game. After the cases began to decline again, another peak occurred from 124 cases to a preliminary tally of 159 cases in the week after Thanksgiving.

read more: University of Michigan reports spike in COVID-19 cases after Halloween, MSU game

In addition to vaccines, masks and good social distancing practices, the methods are there to mitigate COVID-19 and help alleviate capacity problems, Washer said.

“We need to make better use of the tools we have,” she said.

In the meantime, Michigan Medicine’s services will be affected, including routine surgeries that can have long-lasting consequences and transfers from other hospitals.

“This is not the way we or anyone else wants to provide services,” Miller said.

Read more from The Ann Arbor News:

$1,500 Bonuses Offered to University of Michigan Employees for Work During the COVID Pandemic

745 Flu Cases Identified in University of Michigan CDC Study

COVID-19 cases at University of Michigan, Michigan State plunge since Halloween weekend