KALAMAZOO, MI – Kalamazoo’s two main hospitals have exceeded 90% capacity since Thursday, November 19th.
Medical directors from Bronson’s hospitals, Ascension Borgess and Oaklawn hospitals met at a virtual roundtable on Thursday to discuss capacity, staff and regional trends in Kalamazoo and Calhoun counties.
Dr. Summer Liston-Crandall, medical director of Oaklawn Medical Group, said it took some time for community members in Calhoun County to acknowledge that COVID-1
“It took a lot of shocking news from the headline to get our colleagues and neighbors to hear this; is present here, “she said. We listened for a long time, “Oh, it’s elsewhere.” I think we would all like to think so, but it really is here. “
The coronavirus test positive at Marshall Hospital in Oaklow was more than 20 percent for a week or more, Liston-Crandall said.
Data from the MI Safe Launch Map on November 15 show that Kalamazoo County has a positivity of 12.7% and 544 new daily cases per million people. The positivity in Calhoun County is 14.6% and 585 new daily cases per million.
“We really hear the concern, and in the end I think so does our audience,” Liston-Crandall said.
Dr. Thomas Ross, chief medical officer of Ascension Borgess, said the virus was not isolated. The hospitals in Kalamazoo serve as regional health facilities, Ross said, meaning they accept patients from neighboring counties as well as Kalamazoo County.
Both Rohs and Dr. Martinson Arnan, Bronson Healthcare’s chief clinical officer, said that internal testing of their hospitals showed that the rate of positivity was much higher than that of Kalamazoo County because of this combination of patients from -large region.
“It’s a lot in our less densely populated communities, and everyone needs to pay attention,” Ross said. “Even if you’re in a small town and you think you’re a little immunized. Nowhere is there immunity anymore. This is no longer a disease of urban nature or being in the city as it was in the spring. “
Larger hospitals allow both Bronson and Borges to be flexible in capacity – both in physical space and in the number of beds, medical directors said.
As of Thursday, Bronson Methodist Hospital in downtown Kalamazoo was operating at 93 percent capacity with 59 coronavirus patients. According to state data, Ascension Borgess operates at 91% capacity with 37 coronavirus patients.
Marshall’s Oaklown Hospital does not have the same flexibility, Liston-Crandall said. The hospital has begun postponing procedures such as colonoscopies to use space and staff for coronavirus patients instead, she said.
On Thursday, Oaklawn operated at 58% capacity and cared for 11 coronavirus patients, according to state data.
“We had to be a little nimble to meet the requirements,” Liston-Crandall said. “We had to contact our community partners like Bronson and Borges to transfer patients we didn’t have room for.”
The staff remains heavy for Bronson and Borges as well. Both hospitals ask nurses with previous experience in bed to leave current positions in quality care or administrative work to return to bed care roles.
“We see an extraordinary sacrifice from so many people as a way to use the skills that are in the system,” Arnan said. “Doing your part to be safe and to keep your neighbors safe, to protect your vulnerable family members, is your way of saying that I appreciate this sacrifice.”
While hospital systems are booming to accommodate the growing number of coronavirus patients, the three medical directors had a clear message to the public – do not give up care for fear of coronavirus infection.
In Borgess, Rohs said, emergency room numbers had already begun to decline after the latest public health order was announced on Sunday.
Hospitals want to avoid completely shutting down the health care system and creating an abundance of patients who need regular treatment, such as what happened in the spring.
The main difference between the spring and fall jumps is that hospitals now understand the virus better and are better prepared to separate coronavirus patients from the other wings of the hospital, medical directors said. They fear that people suffering from severe symptoms of the virus or other medical conditions will delay medical care.
“If you have any anxious symptoms, don’t try to drive it home,” Ross said. “If you come to the hospital, we will keep you safe. We have the capacity to take care of you. It is different than it was in the spring; better than it was in the spring. “
Hospital directors were optimistic about the news that Pfizer and Moderna vaccines had exceeded 90% efficacy in their studies. All three directors expressed confidence in the upcoming vaccines.
“I think people need to understand that it’s miraculous that the vaccine was developed so quickly,” Arnan said. “It’s also because a lot of bureaucratic things, which sometimes slow things down, have been taken away, but science has never been blurred.”
Pfizer’s plant in Portage will be one of the company’s main distribution centers, and the Kalamazoo County Health Department has been selected as the regional storage and distribution center.
Bronson, Borgess and Oaklawn have ordered ultra-cold freezers to be able to store doses of vaccines that require storage at temperatures below minus 94 degrees Fahrenheit.
The public health department’s dissemination plan includes health professionals as part of the first group of people eligible for the vaccine before it is produced enough for mass distribution.
“Honestly, I would be the first on the line to have one if I could,” Ross said. “And I’ll throw my family in line in front of me if I can.”
Even with a light at the end of the tunnel, Arnan warned the community not to be disappointed with the good news. The general message from the three medical directors was that the coronavirus would continue to spread at a high rate unless people change their behavior.
“Being a guardian of our brothers or sisters means that if I defend myself, I could protect someone else who may be more vulnerable than me, who may not survive,” Arnan said. “Let’s work hard to do what we can not only for ourselves but for the people around us.”
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