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COVID surge, staffing shortage, causing concern for patient treatment

While some families are concerned with the treatment of their loved ones, hospital staff and leaders are also concerned with how they're being treated.

GRAND HAVEN, Mich. — As hospitals continue to fight COVID-19 amid a surge in cases, a decrease in staffing are causing some concern regarding patient treatment.

13 ON YOUR SIDE looked more into the issue after taking a call from a concerned viewer about a Lakeshore hospital. 

What we've learned is while some families are concerned with the treatment of their loved ones, hospital staff and leaders are also concerned with how they're being treated.

At the end of the day, both parties agree that this surge in the pandemic is really causing heightened stress for everyone.

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Kimberly Wright was nearly in tears describing what her father said he experienced at the North Ottawa Community Health System in Grand Haven.

"My dad needed somebody that could speak for him," she said. 

Her father had been in the hospital's emergency room for nearly four hours with COVID-19, getting monoclonal antibody treatment, but claimed he was ignored and left alone in a dark room. 

"I feel that patients with COVID need a voice too," said Wright. 

Wright added that she was also extremely frustrated and concerned that her father's nurse never came out to update her family on his condition. 

"Because he has COVID, he can't have visitors and I understand that," she said. "But if you're too busy to have his nurse come out and give me an update after four hours, and you won't let me go back there that is concerning. As his family members we felt helpless."

North Ottawa Community Health System couldn't respond directly to the concerns or accusations of Wright's father due to privacy rules, but did send a statement to 13 ON YOUR SIDE that said:

"As is the case with every hospital across the country that is battling the highly contagious COVID-19 Omicron variant surge, we have a visitor restriction policy in place to protect the safety of our patients and staff. We understand the tremendous anxiety COVID-19 causes patients and their families. It can be overwhelming. We feel it, too. Our goal is to get it right every time with every patient, regardless of circumstances. If that doesn't happen, we apologize and strive to do better.

North Ottawa Community Health System has been caring for its community for more than 100 years. Our patient safety and quality of care have always been and will always be our top priorities."

And that's something that Wright said she does understand, but she wishes that there were exceptions to the policy when it comes to family members. 

That said, she also understands that hospital employees are overworked.

"I know some people are tired, and that they probably don't get treated the best by people either all the time," said Wright, "but how would you want to be treated? How would you want someone to treat your loved one?"

In a survey done by National Nurses United in late 2020 of more than 15,000 registered nurses in the United States, it showed that about 20% of participants said they faced increased on-the-job violence due to COVID-19–related staffing shortages, changes in their patient population, and restrictions for visitors.

North Ottawa Community Health System is one of several hospitals in West Michigan with visitor restriction policies in place as the omicron variant has caused a surge. Others in our area include Holland Hospital, Mercy Health Muskegon and Spectrum Health.

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