The following statement is made on behalf of chief medical officers of Michigan’s community hospitals.
One year ago, Michigan faced a frightening increase in COVID-19 cases as the winter holidays approached. In response to Gov. Whitmer’s call for limits on social gatherings, we collectively followed responsible and proven measures that reduced the spread of COVID-19, saved lives and protected our state’s healthcare system.
For the 2021 holiday season we are already approaching the highest number of COVID-19 hospitalizations in Michigan since the pandemic began. As of Sunday, Nov. 21, 3,785 COVID-19 patients were hospitalized, including 784 in our intensive care units (ICUs). The vast majority of patients in the ICU and on ventilators are unvaccinated. In addition to these high numbers of COVID-19 patients requiring emergency care and hospitalization, we are seeing high numbers of patients with other medical conditions requiring care. This combination is straining or exceeding the capacity of emergency departments and hospitals across the state. We cannot wait any longer for Michigan to correct course; we need your help now to end this surge and ensure our hospitals can care for everyone who needs it.
Across the state, resilient and dedicated healthcare workers in hospitals stand ready to care for emergency medical needs, but the reality is most hospitals throughout the state have more patients in their emergency departments than they do available rooms and staff to care for them. This results in long wait times, patients being placed in hallways or conference rooms, and diverting patients away from a hospital because there is no physical room or medical staff available to accept more patients.
You may have seen reports that some hospitals are at a pandemic level red — which indicates the highest level in that facility’s emergency preparedness plan. We are extremely concerned because our best predictions are that COVID-19 patients will continue to increase during the weeks ahead as we enter the yearly flu season. At the same time, the need for care for heart disease, cancer and other diseases will continue at some of the highest rates we’ve seen in recent history.
The evidence shows that patients who receive monoclonal antibody therapy early have markedly lower rates of hospitalization and complications from COVID-19. Many hospitals have reprioritized staff and resources from ambulatory services such as testing, outpatient treatment or rehab to free up caregivers to dispense monoclonal antibody therapy and vaccines in the hope of reducing hospitalization and death. While these actions may lead to longer wait times for ambulatory services, it is important that patients who meet the criteria seek out monoclonal antibody therapy to reduce the chance of a hospital stay.
As the chief medical representatives of the healthcare systems in Michigan, we are asking all Michigan residents to recognize the following:
- Hospitals are operating at contingency levels of care, which means waiting times are longer and staffing shortages are now the norm and not an exception.
- This situation is a result of our ongoing pandemic response, the serious illness of non-COVID-19 patients, the increased length of stay of all patients, and the resulting high number of patients in Michigan hospitals.
- Just as hospitals and the staff working inside are and have been working at capacity, our emergency medical services (EMS) are also stressed and overworked. There may be times when capacity in the system is not adequate to accommodate the usual response and speed of transport, especially for out-of-area transfers.
- If the pressure on hospitals and EMS increases further, we all risk facing increasing delays and challenges in accessing care for everyone who needs emergency services and inpatient hospital care.
Knowing this situation, we call on everyone to do their part to lessen the pressure on the healthcare system:
- If you are not already vaccinated, get your vaccine right away or complete your vaccine series. Find a location for vaccination at vaccine.gov. The evidence shows vaccines are effective at keeping people out of the hospital and off ventilators. Vaccines are free and available to those ages 5 and up at many pharmacies, doctors’ offices and health departments across the state.
- If you are vaccinated, get a booster dose of vaccine, which is now approved for everyone ages 18 and above.
- If you have questions about the vaccines, please reach out to your medical provider.
- Carefully consider where you seek healthcare. A primary care office, virtual visit or urgent care may be the best accommodation as hospital and emergency departments are seeing high demand. Despite this, for emergency conditions such as stroke symptoms, chest pain, difficulty breathing or significant injury, you should still seek emergency care. Know that emergency departments are doing all they can to provide safe and timely access.
- Practice physical distance at indoor events and gatherings, including the use of face masks and other protection.
- If you are aware of a potential COVID-19 exposure, get tested and limit your interaction with others until you have a negative test and/or have passed the recommended quarantine period.
- Recognize that hospital and EMS staff are shorthanded and under extreme pressure. Extend patience and thoughtfulness to those who are working the hardest to support and care for our family members and friends.
Our healthcare teams have worked tirelessly for the past 20 months to serve every community in our state. Now more than ever, they need your support.