ER doctors ‘manage chaos’ amid COVID-19 surge in Michigan

Despite the crowded EDs and long waits, Bob Riney, president of hospital operations for six-hospital Henry Ford Health System, said people should not delay coming to the hospital or clinic for needed care.

“Our emergency rooms have processes to ensure that you are kept safe and to take good care of you,” Riney said. “If you delay care, you will complicate your own medical condition. And you will complicate the resources required from the health care community.”

In the Michigan Thumb, Dr. Mark Hamed, director of emergency and hospital medicine at McKenzie Health System in Sandusky, said multiple facilities are seeing an increase of patients with COVID-19 symptoms. McKenzie has medical centers in Port Sanilac, Croswell, Peck and Sandusky.

At eight-hospital Beaumont Health, Susan Grant, the system’s chief nursing officer, said “hundreds and hundreds of (patients are) coming through our emergency rooms and being admitted to our hospitals and our intensive care units.”

“None of us would have imagined going through that extraordinarily difficult time (last year) that we would be here again, same time this year, and that we would be working and seeing so many patients who are infected with coronavirus.”

“Our nurses, our doctors, respiratory therapists, our teams are tired, and they’re worn. And they’re not only physically tired and worn, they’re emotionally tired and worn,” said Grant, adding: “That emotional exhaustion has come from experiencing and being present for observing the the enormous toll that this virus has taken on patients on families on their own personal lives.”

Terri Dagg-Barr, an ED nurse at McLaren Macomb and chief steward of the OPEIU Local 40, said the hospital has been filling up over the past two weeks. The ED has been regularly holding 40 patients waiting for an inpatient bed, she said.

“You walk in and it is just insanity. Every room is full. The waiting rooms are always full. You see wheelchair after wheelchair,” Dagg-Barr said. “It takes eight to nine hours to find an ER bed and people are waiting two days for a hospital bed.”

Dagg-Barr said the nurses and technicians are getting exhausted. “It is a constant struggle to treat patients. You look down the hall and see more and more patients,” she said. “People are just sicker. Everyone took a break from seeing their doctors, and now they are coming into the ER.”

Jeff Morawski, a cardiac catherization nurse at McLaren Macomb, said people are coming in with heart attacks, strokes and various traumas.

“We are full and the hospital hasn’t stopped doing procedures. We are holding ICU patients in the ER and in my department, we are still doing cardiac cath procedures,” said Morawski, who also is president of OPEIU Local 40. “(Managers) are asking for volunteers to watch these patients (overnight).”

Dr. Seth Krupp, medical director and vice chair of operations in emergency medicine at Henry Ford Health, said Henry Ford Macomb has the system’s highest number of COVID-19 patients. He said all hospitals have delays getting patients admitted as most are nearing maximum capacity.

“We’ve just seen exponential growth in our patients. We feel it in lots of ways. The pace of growth feels similar to the first wave in March and April, but the patients we are serving is different,” Krupp said.

“Fewer patients need to be on ventilators because we are seeing younger populations,” he said. “The first wave our overall volume was down by half. The second wave we probably were down by 30 percent. This wave, we’re probably closer to down by the order of 10 percent.”

Riney said Henry Ford Macomb has been limiting some elective surgeries and procedures or redirecting them to other system hospitals.

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