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West Michigan hospitals hit capacity as COVID cases rise

Spectrum Health has begun delaying some elective procedures.

As COVID positivity continues to spike around the nation, hospitals in West Michigan are seeing the impact up close. Tuesday and Wednesday the average new confirmed cases sat at 4,335 per day. Officials with local health systems say they are struggling to keep up. 

"We've had the busiest inpatient census across all of our hospitals that we've had ever." Said Joshua Kooistra, Chief Medical Officer at Spectrum Health. The hospital system has started to delay elective procedures to mitigate intake. 

Kooistra says Spectrum's ICU's are full. They haven't had to turn patients away up to this point, but he says they aren't able to work at their full scope. The increase in COVID cases goes hand in hand with a nationwide staffing shortage, and as other hospitals in our region are feeling the same strain. Spectrum can't offer the usual help they have in the past.

"We have a lot of requests from other systems to send patients to us, because they are experiencing equal capacity concerns." Kooistra said. "Our ability to take those patients into our system and care for them has been limited."

Closer to the lakeshore, Holland Hospital is at 100% capacity. "If we have a patient come into the emergency room who needs to be admitted," said Chief Nursing Officer Joe Bonello. "We then end up having to hold them in the emergency department until we can get a spot for them."

Increased wait times are also a result of the staffing, specifically nursing, shortage according to Bonello. The other big factor - a lack of vaccinations. "It's clear across the country and around the world that more vaccinations will decrease the number of hospitalizations," Bonello said. "And that solves the problem."

Holland Hospital is at 100% capacity with 15% of those patients sick with COVID-19. At Spectrum health, Kooistra says the number is closer to 25%, and the heavy majority of those patients are unvaccinated. 

Statewide 63.1% of Michiganders have received at least one dose of the vaccine, and the percentage around the state of fully vaccinated people is 68.1%

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