Michigan receives help from feds to ease overburdened hospitals during COVID wave

By: - November 24, 2021 2:21 pm

Getty Images

Michigan hospitals will get some additional staffing assistance from the federal government as unvaccinated COVID-19 patients overwhelm local hospitals across the state. 

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) announced Wednesday that the federal government has granted Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s request and will send two medical teams, with 22 medical personnel each, to support staff at Beaumont Hospital, Dearborn, and Spectrum Health in Grand Rapids. 

The teams, which will include registered nurses, doctors and respiratory therapists, will arrive next week and begin treating patients immediately, providing support for the next 30 days.

“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 in a statement. “Right now, our doctors and nurses are reporting the vast majority of their patients are unvaccinated or have not yet received a booster dose.”

In the last 30 days of complete data (Oct. 7 to Nov. 5), 73% of cases, 72% of  hospitalizations and 76% of deaths were among individuals who were not fully vaccinated.  

According to hospital data reported to MDHHS, over 20% of hospital inpatients statewide are COVID positive. There are regional differences with some facilities reporting that nearly 50% of inpatients are COVID positive. As of Monday, 3,963 Michiganders are hospitalized for COVID-19.

“Hospitals are at capacity across the state, particularly in Metro Detroit and West Michigan, and this is taking a tremendous toll on our health care workers,” said DHHS Director Elizabeth Hertel. “We are working hard to give them support, but they also need every Michigander to do their part by getting vaccinated, wearing a mask in public indoor settings regardless of vaccination status, social distancing and staying home and getting tested if they have symptoms.”

V.A. Hospital, Ann Arbor | Susan J. Demas

Additionally, DHHS submitted a request for federal Veterans Affairs (VA) hospitals to open beds for civilian transfers. The John D. Dingell Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Detroit opened beds with an initial agreement in place for 30 days that may be extended. 

DHHS and the regional health care coalition will work with facilities in Southeast Michigan and the VA system to identify potential patients and coordinate transfers.

“The virus has exhausted our teams and resulted in unprecedented staffing challenges at Beaumont Health and health systems across the state. This pandemic is not over by any means,” said Beaumont Health CEO John Fox. 

Michigan also requested and received additional allocations of important COVID-19 therapeutics, including 800 additional courses of RegenCoV, which is a monoclonal antibody therapy proven to significantly reduce hospitalizations and deaths due to COVID-19.

We ask everyone to please get vaccinated. And, if you’re eligible, get a booster shot. Please follow the guidelines experts have repeatedly stressed: wear a mask, wash your hands regularly and practice social distancing. We all must work together to end this pandemic. We need everyone’s help and support,” said Fox. 

Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.

Allison R. Donahue
Allison R. Donahue

Allison R. Donahue is a former Michigan Advance reporter who covered education, women's issues and LGBTQ issues. Previously, she was a suburbs reporter at the St. Cloud Times in St. Cloud, Minn., covering local education and government. As a graduate of Grand Valley State University, she has previous experience as a freelance researcher for USA Today and an intern with WOOD TV-8.