GRAND RAPIDS, MI — Spectrum Health has expanded its intensive care unit (ICU) by 30% over the past two weeks as the number of coronavirus patients continues to increase rapidly at its 14 hospitals across the region.
“If you would have asked us a month ago, how would things go with this many ICU patients, we would have said we’re pretty full,” said Dr. Darryl Elmouchi, president of Spectrum Health West Michigan.
“The good news — and our teams have truly been spectacular — we have opened additional ICU capacity across our hospitals to the point, while we’re very busy, we have additional capacity and if need be we can expand capacity more.”
Elmouchi made his comments Thursday, Nov. 19 in an online press conference.
Concerns over hospital capacity and adequate staffing have mounted in recent weeks as COVID-19 cases have surged throughout the state. Last week, Spectrum’s president and CEO, Tina Freese Decker, said she expected Spectrum and other Michigan hospitals to reach capacity in a “matter of days.”
The number of people hospitalized for COVID-19 at Spectrum’s hospitals had climbed to 345 as of Thursday afternoon. That’s up from 289 people on Nov. 11, and just 50 cases in early October.
During Thursday’s press conference, Elmouchi said Spectrum now has “other beds within our hospitals that really can function as ICUs with the proper monitoring equipment.”
When discussing staffing, he said that since the beginning of November, more than 700 of Spectrum’s 31,000 employees have tested positive for COVID-19.
“From a staffing standpoint, we are doing OK now,” Elmouchi said. “But much like the community, we have a lot of staff that have contracted COVID-19 in the community and therefore are calling in sick.”
Later, he added “And given the acuity and the volume of patients, we are stretched, and we are monitoring that very closely.”
Some staff are being required to work extra shifts to accommodate the surge of COVID-19 patients, said Shawn Ulreich, the chief nurse executive and senior vice president of clinical operation at Spectrum Health West Michigan.
While COVID-19 hospitalizations are increasing at Spectrum, so are the number of people testing positive for the virus.
The healthcare system’s average positivity rate for the past seven days now totals 18.6%.
That’s up from about 14% one week ago, 10% two weeks ago and less than 3% two months ago.
“The situations definitely worsened since last week,” Elmouchi said.
Statewide, there are 311,041 confirmed or probable COVID-19 cases in Michigan, and 8,717 confirmed or probable deaths, according to the latest state data.
In Kent County, there are 27,049 confirmed or probable cases, and 277 confirmed or probable deaths, state data show.