4:13 PM, Feb 27, 2020


Michigan hospitals preparing for crush of coronavirus patients

Posted at 5:25 PM, Mar 17, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-31 16:15:30-04

Doctors and nurses are preparing for a storm they know is coming. With each day that the coronavirus spreads, Michigan’s hospitals become further stressed. For at least the foreseeable future, experts say it will only get worse.

Full coverage: Coronavirus outbreak in Michigan

“If the worst case scenario plays out, there’s going to be need for urgent plans to be implemented,” said Brian Peters, CEO of the Michigan Health and Hospital Association. "The development of new hospital capacity that frees up beds, staff and supplies.”

Just a week ago, Michigan had two confirmed cases of coronavirus. Today, there are 65, and experts say the true number is considerably higher than that.

Concern over what the state will look like seven days from now is has led hospitals to work around the clock to increase capacity to meet a growing demand.

Related: These hospitals in metro Detroit are doing drive-thru coronavirus testing

According to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, the state has 25,375 licensed hospital beds. But most of those are full, in part because of patients recovering from illnesses like the flu. That means that, as of earlier this month, only about 6,431 beds are available. A state spokesman could not immediately say how many of those intensive care beds.

For weeks now, hospitals throughout the state have been working on plans to increase capacity: adding more beds, more ventilators, more masks.

At the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, the hospital is opening 32 private, isolation rooms specifically for coronavirus patients. The unit uses negative pressure systems, that make it harder for disease to spread through the air.

At Ascension Health, hospitals are arranging for expedited shipments of hospital supplies and have implemented conservation measures so things like masks last longer.

Knowing that some doctors and nurses will be infected by the disease, hospitals across the state are trying to add staff, too, ensuring that patients can still be treated, even as staff fall ill.

Peters said hospitals are “tapping into retired physicians, retired nurses and other caregivers who may be in a position, because they’ve maintained their license to jump back into the field” to increase staffing.

Gov. Whitmer said recently that the state is looking to add reinforcement, courtesy of medics in the National Guard.

“This is an all hands on deck approach,” said Whitmer yesterday. “It needs to be. Because, very quickly, the number of people needing attention is going to create greater stressors on our ability to meet that need.”