Michigan Hospitals Brace for Omicron Surge, with Facilities Above Capacity

By Simon Albaugh – Yemeni American News

Detroit, Mich. – Detroit Public Health Officials are sounding the alarm on the capability to respond to the COVID-19 surge in Michigan. Henry Ford Hospital administrators are calling attention to their hospitals being at capacity, or even above capacity, and the preventable nature of this stage of the pandemic.

Over the past two years, Henry Ford Hospital has been treating over 100,000 patients annually, despite being designed to treat only 60,000. The overwhelmed healthcare system is above-capacity at some of its locations, including its Detroit hospital. Even with this dire situation, Hospital administrators suspect that it’s about to get worse.

“We are bracing for a spike in infections and hospitalizations, which could, and has the potential to be, our largest surge yet,” said Bob Riney, president of healthcare operations for Henry Ford Health System.

This concern is shared among state leaders, with Governor Whitmer saying “we are in for a tough four to six weeks.”

The Omicron Variant – designated a variant of concern by the World Health Organization- is suspected to be driving the spike in COVID-19 infections. The Centers for Disease Control suspects that as many as 73% of new cases originate from the Omicron Variant.

According to the CDC, the Omicron Variant “likely will spread more easily than the original SARS-CoV-2 virus.” However, the likelihood of severe illness due to the Omicron variant is still unknown.

With what’s suspected to be a massive surge of COVID-19 infections, hospital administrators are worried about the breaking point of hospitals. Part of the challenge of meeting the demand of a massive amount of patients is the healthcare workers’ own wellbeing.

“Our hospitals are teetering and our staff are past the point of exhaustion,” Riney said. “But they’re soldiering on like the heroes that they are and like what you would expect and hope for. We cannot allow our hospitals to become more overwhelmed or have more crossover infections with our workforce because that would truly lead to a public health crisis.”

Over just two weeks, more than 200 workers in the Henry Ford health system have become infected with COVID-19. When this happens, the capacity for Hospitals to care for patients diminishes – and it’s already lead to the closure of 70 inpatient beds in the Henry Ford Health System.

“This continuous spread of COVID not only puts strain on health systems because of the patients, but this spread is exposing our frontline healthcare workers to breakthrough community spread. These team members will therefore not be available until they recover and test negative. This is a concern and something we all have to be worried about.”

Dr. John Deledda, chair of the department of emergency medicine, is already sounding the alarm about the possibility of a surge in breakthrough infections for those already vaccinated. A wave of severe COVID-19 illness can overwhelm an already vulnerable system, according to Dr. Deledda.

“The COVID-19 surge in our emergency departments is resulting, quite frankly, in an operating condition that is unsustainable,” Dr. Deledda said. “If we cannot control the spread of COVID-19 infections in our communities – and we don’t know yet what Omicron is going to bring us – our community’s access to safe and high-quality healthcare is at risk. Plain and simple.”

Administrators say that more people are hospitalized from severe COVID-19 infection than the first surge of COVID-19 in spring of 2020, making this “the worst stage of the pandemic to date,” Dr. Deledda said.

In response to Michigan’s surging number of COVID-19 infections, the Federal Government will be sending teams of emergency physicians to Michigan and five other states to help mitigate the labor shortage. Along with these measures, ventilators will be sent and 500 million tests will be made available to families across the United States.

“As the Omicron variant quickly becomes the dominant strain of COVID-19 across the United States, I am grateful to our federal partners for surging critical resources and personnel that we need to save lives,” said Governor Whitmer.

“Our hospitals and healthcare workers have been working tirelessly for nearly two years and they are at a breaking point. Michigan welcomes the federal emergency response team that will help keep people safe and ensure our healthcare system remains operational.”

Administrators at Henry Ford Health System are bracing for the next surge. With people traveling for the holidays and almost half of Michigan remaining unvaccinated, hospitals are calling for action from residents of Michigan.

“We’re at an impasse with this pandemic,” Dr. Deledda said. “It’s not just going to go away. We’ve got an effective tool to stop this virus, to stop the increasing burden of illness, and to stop the preventable death that is happening in our communities. And that is to get vaccinated.”