Kayla McGuire, a service assistant in surgery at Beaumont, Farmington Hills, shows the third-floor surgery room during a sneak-peek tour of the new hospital amenities in 2019. Last week Beaumont announced it was taking 180 beds offline due to staff shortages.

Kayla McGuire, a service assistant in surgery at Beaumont, Farmington Hills, shows the third-floor surgery room during a sneak-peek tour of the new hospital amenities in 2019. Last week Beaumont announced it was taking 180 beds offline due to staff shortages.

File photo by Deb Jacques


Hospitals, labs stretched thin as Delta variant surges

Staff shortages, delayed care for other illnesses, testing mandates among factors

By: Tiffany Esshaki | C&G Newspapers | Published September 17, 2021

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OAKLAND COUNTY — There’s no doubt about it: COVID-19, and specifically the virus’s Delta variant, has tightened its grip on metro Detroit, and medical professionals at multiple levels are feeling the squeeze.

In a statement released Sept. 15, Beaumont Health System said all of its 10 emergency departments were experiencing “extreme numbers of patients,” and all sites were nearly full.

The announcement was aimed at encouraging patients to self-assess their injuries or ailments and consider treatment options when appropriate, including urgent care facilities, as opposed to hospital emergency centers.

But not all of that traffic is attributed to patients with COVID-19. According to a press release, the “overwhelming majority of the patients currently coming to Beaumont’s emergency departments have other medical conditions and concerns.”

“Many people delayed getting tests and treatment for medical issues because of their concerns about the pandemic. Now, more than a year and a half after the pandemic began, those delays in care are resulting in medical emergencies. Plus, there are many people who still need to get vaccinated. So our staff must care for those unvaccinated individuals who become extremely ill with the COVID Delta variant, or other variants, and try to balance all the other patients coming in with emergencies,” Beaumont Health CEO John Fox said in a press release. “Add in a staffing shortage, and you have a perfect storm.”

As of Sept. 15, about 180 of Beaumont’s beds were temporarily closed because of a lack of staffing.

And while fresh personal protective equipment might be easier to come by at this point in the pandemic, hospitals are lacking supplies that can’t be manufactured, like blood donations.

Similarly, Orchard Laboratories, headquartered in West Bloomfield, said it has been running low on tests and staff to process them ever since President Joe Biden announced Sept. 9 he would mandate businesses with more than 100 employees to have employees vaccinated or tested weekly. The lab has seen a 25% increase in demand over the past month — its capacity is more than 10,000 tests per day.

“Companies are scrambling to navigate the new rules, and we are here to help,” Sami Ahmad, the president and co-founder of Orchard Laboratories, said in a press release. “As a high-quality laboratory, we can help companies logistically implement testing for COVID-19 and arrange vaccination and testing programs to comply with the new mandate.”

Since March 2020, when the pandemic prompted the first shutdowns in Michigan, Orchard Laboratories more than doubled its staff.

Private vaccination clinics and public health vaccination efforts have declined since the shot was made available to the public earlier this year, but there are still plenty of fast and free ways people over the age of 12 can get vaccinated against COVID-19, which studies have shown can reduce transmission of the virus and reduce the likelihood of developing its most serious or even life-threatening symptoms. Getting vaccinated is the best way to prevent COVID-19 illness, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“There are numerous places for people to get vaccinated. If you haven’t gotten your vaccine yet, please get one as soon as possible. We know the vaccine works and we know it helps save lives,” Beaumont Health Chief Nursing Officer Susan Grant said in a press release. “If you have any questions or concerns about the vaccine, please talk with a physician or nurse.”

An earlier study from Pfizer, which manufactures one of the mRNA vaccines to protect against COVID-19, suggests that its vaccine is more than 90% effective against preventing cases of COVID-19, and more than 95% effective in preventing severe cases of the virus, though that immunity could wane over time, and booster shots are being explored. According to the CDC, the vaccine is reportedly less effective against the Delta variant, at about a 66% reduced risk.

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