Southfield-based Beaumont Health reports that its 10 emergency departments are almost full, a problem compounded by staff shortages and severe COVID-19 illness among those unvaccinated.
About 180 of Beaumont’s approximately 3,400 beds are temporarily closed due to understaffing, the system reported on Wednesday (September 15).
The healthcare system, with eight hospitals and 155 outpatient care centers, encourages patients with non-urgent health problems to visit doctors’ offices or emergency care sites.
“Many people have delayed testing and treatment for medical issues due to concerns about the pandemic. Now, more than a year and a half after the start of the pandemic, these delays in care are leading to medical emergencies, ”CEO John Fox said in a statement.
Most of the patients who now populate Beaumont emergency departments have medical issues and concerns other than COVID-19.
However, many people still have not been vaccinated against the disease. Staff need to care for these patients when they become “extremely ill” and balance their attention between themselves and those with a medical emergency, Fox said. Add to that the staff shortages and “you have a perfect storm”.
Earlier this week, Detroit-based Henry Ford Health System announced that it also had to close beds at its five hospitals, mainly in Jackson and Detroit, due to understaffing.
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“The emergency departments have been very, very busy and so have our hospitals,” Dr. Adnan Munkarah, executive vice president and clinical director of Henry Ford Health System, said in a briefing Monday. “Sadly, our healthcare system, along with other healthcare systems in the region, state and nation, are facing unprecedented staffing challenges, exacerbated by this pandemic.”
Beaumont is aggressively working to recruit new team members to serve patients and encourage those who have not been immunized to seek out widely available vaccines, the hospital system reported, which requires employees, with few exceptions, to be vaccinated.
“There are many places where people can get vaccinated. If you have not yet received your vaccine, please get one as soon as possible. We know the vaccine works and we know it helps save lives, ”said Susan Grant, chief nurse at Beaumont, in the statement.
COVID-19 cases are on the rise in Michigan, the seven-day average of newly reported cases jumped 42% last week. Health professionals say the delta variant, which is much more transmissible than earlier strains, is to blame and the population’s immunity is insufficient to ward off the disease or stop significant transmission.
About 67% of people 16 and older have received at least one injection in Michigan. The target was 70%. A handful of counties, including Washtenaw and Oakland counties, have very high rates. In other counties and in Detroit, the rates are much lower.
According to the American Hospital Association, COVID-19 has taken a heavy toll on healthcare teams. Many suffer from stress, trauma, burnout, and increased behavioral health issues.
Other factors besides the coronavirus challenge the workforce, including an aging population and an increase in chronic diseases and behavioral health issues, according to the association.
To ease the burden on emergency rooms, Beaumont urges patients to consider what is worth a visit and what is not. A person with chest pain, difficulty breathing, sudden numbness, broken open wounds, unstoppable bleeding, and severe localized abdominal pain should go to the emergency room. Sore throat, skin irritation, fever, minor injuries, and earaches are best treated in an after-hours clinic or emergency care center.
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