University of Michigan Health reports ‘extremely high occupancy’ as COVID cases spike

Hospital treating high number of COVID, non-COVID patients

Provider at Michigan Medicine with admitted COVID-19 patient. (Michigan Medicine)

ANN ARBOR – University of Michigan Health has reported a sharp increase in COVID-19 activity in recent days as the state of Michigan experiences a resurgence of the novel virus.

Due to increasing patient demand from both individuals with and without COVID and high positivity rates, the hospital is reporting “extremely high occupancy” in hospital inpatient units and in emergency departments.

Currently, the health system is treating more than 75 COVID-19 adult cases, 20 of which are in the Intensive Care Unit. Additionally, COVID cases have caused an increase in wait times in the adult emergency department.

According to an internal Michigan Medicine email obtained by All About Ann Arbor, dozens of patients left the emergency department over the past week and did not receive care due to wait times. As flu and seasonal illness activity continues to rise, Mott Children’s Hospital reportedly ran out of cribs at one point as they grappled with a high number of RSV cases in children.

Read: Data: Michigan seeing highest COVID case numbers in US

In the same email, heads of the health system’s various departments were urged to not send any patients to the ED unless they were unstable, and to prioritize early discharges from their respective units to free up beds. Staff were also alerted that elective surgeries could decrease 80-85% this week to accommodate the sharp increase of new inpatients.

“We’re at another COVID-19 turning point in Michigan, one that requires University of Michigan Health to again adjust our clinical activity to safely manage patients in the emergency department and our current inpatients,” president of University of Michigan Health and executive vice dean of affairs for the U-M Medical School David Miller said in a statement.

“Our extraordinary teams are again initiating numerous efforts over the next few days to preserve capacity to care for the most serious patients, including those with COVID-19. Our guiding principle throughout the pandemic is to ensure that we continue to provide the safest care possible for our patients and our team members.”

According to a U-M Health release, these measures include:

  • Implementation of vaccine mandates for U-M Health team members, continued masking, social distancing and hand hygiene
  • Activating discharges and transfers from the emergency department to inpatient units more quickly
  • Rescheduling some adult surgical procedures and medical admissions to help manage care through the next few days, or longer. Patients whose scheduled procedures and admissions have been postponed will receive direct communication
  • Reducing transfers from other hospitals

“Hospital systems throughout the state feel the effects of rising COVID-19 cases, as pandemic-related care strains resources,” Miller said in a release. “We know that we have effective tools, such as vaccines and mask-wearing, which could significantly reduce the impact of the virus.”

U-M Health says that of the 68 COVID-19 patients hospitalized on Thursday, 50 were unvaccinated for a rate of 73.5%. Of the 23 patients in the ICU on Thursday, only four were vaccinated, said the health system. Additionally, all 12 patients currently on ventilators are unvaccinated.

Read: US expands COVID boosters to all adults, final hurdle ahead

The health system urges everyone eligible to get vaccinated against COVID-19 as soon as possible.

“This is an opportunity for the people of Michigan to take lifesaving measures and slow, or even end, this pandemic that has caused so much loss for individuals, families and communities,” Miller said in a release. “This is also the best way to support exhausted health care workers who have time and again demonstrated their incredible dedication to taking care of patients during the pandemic.

“It is difficult to fully express our gratitude for our care teams and staff who continue to show unyielding resiliency, compassion and extraordinary teamwork during such a stressful time. We also want to thank our patients for their understanding and patience as we work to ensure the safety of our community during this resurgence.”

For information on COVID-19 vaccines at Michigan Medicine, click here.

For guidance on seeking care at the U-M’s ER, click here.

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About the Author:

Meredith has worked for WDIV since August 2017 and was voted one of Washtenaw County's best journalists in 2019 by eCurrent's readers. She covers the community of Ann Arbor and has a Master's degree in International Broadcast Journalism from City University London, UK.