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Local hospitals plead with community as capacities reach record highs

"The number one thing hospitals are asking is to please reconsider if you have not been vaccinated," said Jen VanSkiver.

OTTAWA COUNTY, Mich. — Healthcare leaders are pleading with the public Wednesday after West Michigan has hit what they call a "tipping point."

As Michigan continues to be at the epicenter of COVID-19, hospitals are overwhelmed and asking for our help to keep people as safe and healthy as possible.

The Region 6 Healthcare Coalition is a 13 county emergency preparedness program that helps coordinate medical services during natural and man-made disasters.

On Wednesday they sent a statement pleading for the public's help in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Jen VanSkiver is the coalition's public information officer in times of crisis, which she said we are in now.

"We're seeing double capacity in the emergency departments, double capacity in in-patient and in critical care, and we're seeing double the amount of ambulance runs," she said, "plus our urgent cares are more full than they've ever been."

WATCH: West Michigan hospitals are 'overwhelmed' and 'at a tipping point'

How does that impact you? Here's what the Region 6 Healthcare Coalition said:

  • Wait times for emergency, urgent or primary care may be much longer than usual 
  • Ambulance transfers may be delayed 
  • Surgeries or procedures may be deferred to a later date 
  • Visitor restrictions remain in effect 
  • You may have a prolonged stay in the emergency department waiting for a bed in the hospital 

Now the coalition is asking for help.

"We want to lay out the facts for the public about where we are, and full-transparency," she explained, "and then enlist their support to help relieve the pressure."

"If there's one thing we've learned through the pandemic," added VanSkiver, "it's that every single hospital, every single bed, and every single clinician is needed at this moment in time."

The coalition said the healthcare systems are operating at extremely high capacity, and have been for weeks. And while COVID may be declining elsewhere, officials warn that's NOT the case in Michigan. 

"We must do better," said VanSkiver. "Healthcare systems were put here to take care of the communities that they're in. What we were never designed to do was take care of all of the public at once."

But the capacity isn't just caused by COVID patients. Leaders say they are also now getting patients that have put-off medical care. 

"Strokes, heart attacks, and things like this are always occurring," VanSkiver added, "so you have that normal patient volume mixed up with everything else going on."

The coalition said they are also concerned there will be a surge of influenza along with the current COVID-19 surge adding to the capacity issues.

There is also a lack of staffing that affecting the entire country. VanSkiver called it the "Great Resignation."

"That has hit no other industry harder than healthcare," she said, "and at a time when more people in the communities we serve need us for higher levels of care, we have fewer people to do the job."

Holland Hospital also release a plea for help Wednesday that said:

"Holland Hospital is honored to have ensured the health of our community for over a century.  Every day, we meet people where they are; joining them on a journey to health, on a path from illness to recovery, and holding hands in comfort when the circle of life closes.  We know this same spirit of caring for others is what defines our community.

The pandemic has absorbed much of our energy, time and resources over the last 19 months. People ask us, "How are things going at Holland Hospital?" The answer is we are feeling that strain now more than ever. 

Our community is experiencing a period of increased serious illness taking a toll on Holland Hospital's team and resources, and the challenges we face impact the entire community.

•    Hospitals are at capacity with the surge in COVID patients in addition to many other seriously ill patients.

•    The number of very sick people coming through our doors, as a result of COVID and other serious conditions, is climbing. As a result, ER wait times here and across Michigan are spiraling.  

•    People have delayed care and are now seeking treatment when their illness has progressed to an advanced stage.

•    Like hospitals nationwide, Holland Hospital is struggling to hire staff in all departments at a time when demand for services is at an all-time high.

•    More than ever, our staff are being exposed to incivility and violence from some of the same patients and visitors we work hard to serve.

•    Mental health and peoples' ability to cope are being stretched to the limit.

Our region was built on a legacy of our strength and determination. Supporting one another in crisis is what we do. Please do what you can to help."

So what can you do to help?

"The number one thing hospitals are asking is to please reconsider if you have not been vaccinated," said Jen VanSkiver, "because 98% of the people who come into our ICU who need that extra level of care are un-vaccinated. They are the sickest among us."

In its statement, the Region 6 Healthcare Coalition said that "this is impacting our ability to care for those who are seriously injured in a car accident, suffer a heart attack, stroke, or experience another medical emergency or issue. If more people were vaccinated, that would help reduce the number of COVID-19 patients, as most of the COVID-19 patients in the ED and admitted remain unvaccinated." 

Officials added that relying on your primary care physician is a great resource for lessening the burden on hospitals. 

Here's a full list of what the coalition is recommending the public do:

  • Get a COVID-19 vaccination or booster if you are eligible 
  • Get children 5-18 a Covid-19 vaccination 
  • Wash your hands frequently 
  • Wear a mask when in indoor public spaces or outdoors when unable to socially distance 
  • Practice healthy behaviors such as socially distancing, getting good sleep, eating well and exercising. 

"This isn't the time for political talk at the dinner table," said Jen VanSkiver. "This is time for life, death and healthcare talk so we can take care of each other."

"Hospitals need to be open, and need to be able to receive you," she added, "we need you more than ever before, so please keep walking alongside us."

Officials also say that especially during the holiday season it's extremely important to keep gathering small, social distance, and wear a mask when necessary regardless of vaccination status.

RELATED VIDEO: Governor's Office speaks on state of COVID-19, responds to criticism

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