Spectrum Health hospitals nearing capacity, CEO says

Grand Rapids, Mich.-based Spectrum Health has 14 hospitals nearing capacity amid a surge of COVID-19 cases, CEO Tina Freese Decker said during a media briefing Nov. 11.

"We are facing some of the most daunting and demanding challenges since this pandemic began," she said at the briefing. "COVID-19 is surging across our state, and we are headed in the wrong direction."

Spectrum Health conducts about 4,000 COVID-19 tests daily. As of Nov. 11, the health system reported a positivity rate of about 14 percent, which compares to about 10 percent two weeks ago and less than 3 percent in September.

According to Spectrum Health's website, the health system has fewer than 300 patients hospitalized, but the CEO said that number is more than three times higher than it was last spring and eight times higher than September.

"What we're seeing in our hospitals is that COVID-19 is affecting all groups — young and old, cutting across all populations. We are starting to see more deaths in the last three weeks. The mortality rate for those hospitalized with COVID in West Michigan is about 1 in every 10 people, and that's concerning," she said.

The health system also is concerned about the coronavirus spread across the entire state, Ms. Freese Decker said.

"We know our colleagues at other hospitals and health facilities are experiencing the same exponential trends that we are experiencing," she said, but this time there's little opportunity to share clinical staff. "That's quite different from the last time when there were places we could go in the state or country for staffing and availability of services for people."

Amid the COVID-19 surge, Spectrum Health is expanding its intensive care unit capacity and dedicating more space for COVID-19 patients, according to the health system. Ms. Freese Decker said Spectrum Health is starting to delay inpatient surgeries that require overnight stays.

The health system also has pleaded with the public to do its part to stop the spread.

Darryl Elmouchi, MD, president of Spectrum Health West Michigan, said the health system is enhancing visitor restrictions at hospitals in West Michigan and prioritizing testing for people with symptoms to ensure theyare tested and that testing turnaround times remain short.

Listen to the full media briefing here

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