SAGINAW, MI – As COVID-19 cases increase across Michigan, six hospitals in the state report they are running at 100% capacity for patients. Saginaw’s Covenant HealthCare is one of them.
Another 18 hospitals across the state, including Ascension St. Mary’s Hospital in Saginaw, are at 90% capacity or more, they report.
What does that mean for hospitals and patients?
Covenant HealthCare’s Planning and Communications Manager Kristin Knoll answered that question and more for MLive/The Saginaw News on Wednesday, Nov. 25.
Q: What does it mean for Covenant to be at 100% capacity and what happens next? What happens if a patient shows up there now?
Knoll: Related to capacity, that number takes into account the number of staffed hospital beds and a lot of nuances that go into that. Like other hospitals across the state, staffing is the biggest challenge when it comes to capacity. Our space can be reconfigured to support different types of patients, but when it comes to staff with specialized skillsets, we have a finite amount. We are taking a variety of actions aimed at providing support to the frontline workers within the hospital.
As the largest acute care hospital in the region (14-20 counties), patients and other hospitals choose us as their destination for care. We take this very seriously, and in a typical year our emergency care staff care for approximately 100,000 emergency care visits.
From time to time, Covenant, like all hospitals, occasionally needs to pause ambulance traffic or transfers from other outlying hospitals. This allows time to discharge patients to home and make sure people get the appropriate safe care they need. Covenant and other regional hospitals have “paused” from time to time during this period of increased hospitalizations due to the pandemic. These actions are as temporary as possible, but we need to do what it takes to ensure safe and thoughtful care for the patients we serve.
We want to make sure those who need emergency medical attention (ie signs of heart attack, stroke, etc.) do not delay seeking medical treatment. Covenant HealthCare is here to provide safe emergency care.
As always, for non-emergency issues, we ask that people use the appropriate place for their care such as their primary care provider or MedExpress urgent care. That allows the emergency room and hospital beds to be available for those who truly need it.
Q: Do hospital officials anticipate even more of a spike after Thanksgiving? What are they doing or what can they do to prepare for that?
Knoll: We are always preparing and trying to be 10 steps ahead. Our teams have been hard at work to support staffing, equipment, personal protective gear, and more. We collaborate with the Region, State and others in order to continuously prepare.
Whether or not we see a spike after Thanksgiving is in the community’s hands.
We are asking the community to step up to help our medical professionals. Unlike masks and ventilators, there are only so many medical professionals. You can’t quickly produce more, and that is what we are seeing across the state and nation.
During this time, every action — little and big — helps. Whatever that looks like to you and your family. Limit your gatherings with people outside of your household. Wear your mask when you must go out. Wash your hands well and often.
People need to keep in mind we are in a global pandemic. They also need to keep in mind that people without symptoms can quietly spread this disease.
My favorite holiday is Thanksgiving, and the traditions of gratitude that go with it. This is the first Thanksgiving that I won’t be getting together with our very large family. But you know what? It’s the right thing to do to show my support for our frontline staff.
Q: How is what’s happening at the hospital now different from what happens during a typical flu season?
Knoll: This is a great question. Winter months are typically the busiest for hospitals and the number of hospitalized patients always goes up. What is different about this pandemic, is the length of time patients spend in the hospital. COVID-19 patients are generally hospitalized twice as long as an average patient. That means, in the amount of time we could usually treat and discharge two patients, we are only able to care for and discharge one. This creates a backlog in the system and is what adds to the capacity issue.
Click here for Saginaw County’s COVID-19 data.
For statewide data, visit MLive’s coronavirus data page, here. To find a testing site near you, check out the state’s online test finder, here, send an email to [email protected], or call 888-535-6136 between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. on weekdays.
For more data on COVID-19 in Michigan, visit https://www.mlive.com/coronavirus/data/.
Read more on MLive:
Chances somebody at your Thanksgiving table has COVID-19? Maybe as high as 50% or more
Saginaw County Health Department shares Thanksgiving, holiday season advice amid coronavirus
Exhausted in a ‘nightmare’: A look inside a Michigan hospital COVID unit
CDC removes guidelines encouraging in-person learning amid COVID-19 pandemic