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Fearing staffing shortages as COVID-19 hospitalizations are on track to break the state record set this spring, several major Michigan health systems are telling employees to report to work, even if they’ve recently had a close or household contact with someone who has COVID-19.

Sparrow Hospital entrance in Lansing
Allen Neighborhood Center / Creative Commons http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

Update, Monday November 16: After a weekend that was "incrementally better" than expected in terms of COVID-19 patient admissions, Sparrow leadership now believe the Lansing hospital will reach full capacity around Thanksgiving, rather than this week. As of Monday, Sparrow was at 81% capacity with 136 COVID patients, according to the state's census. 

"You never know what will happen day to day," says Sparrow spokesperson John Foren. "The latest I saw was conceivably Thanksgiving week. It'll be day to day." 

Courtesy of SEIU Healthcare Michigan

Inside Mercy Health’s gleaming new hospital tower along US-31 in Muskegon, four full floors are now filled with COVID-19 patients. More people are in the emergency room, waiting for beds to open up. Nurses are working grueling 16-hour shifts, racing between rooms, trying to keep up with the growing onslaught of sick patients.

“It has been so stressful and chaotic and heartbreaking, to say the least,” says one worker who helps treat COVID patients at Mercy Health Muskegon.

Emergency room hospital
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Confirmed cases of COVID-19 continue to rise in Michigan, with 2,367 new cases reported on Tuesday. Over the past week, the state has hit a new peak for the average number of new daily cases, though deaths remain far below where they were in the spring. 

Health officials across the state have been urging people to take precautions to stop the spread of the virus: to put off gatherings, keep a distance from others and wear a mask.

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More than half of Michiganders hospitalized for coronavirus during the first several months of the pandemic were unnecessarily given antibiotics, in part because testing delays meant doctors didn’t know whether patients had COVID-19, or another potentially dangerous infection like strep, pneumonia, or both.

While antibiotics don’t treat COVID, they can increase the risk that a patient will develop a resistance to antibiotics later on, when the treatments may be desperately needed, says Dr. Valerie Vaughn. She’s an assistant professor and hospitalist at the University of Michigan, and one of the authors of a new study published in the journal of Clinical Infectious Diseases.

The state of Michigan is modifying rules for how hospitals and funeral homes handle human remains in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In the past, the state just required hospitals and funeral homes make a “reasonable effort” to contact family members before turning to the local medical examiner to decide what to do with the remains.

Henry Ford Hospital, Detroit
Paulette Parker / Michigan Radio

Today on Stateside, we hear how health systems, armed with what they now know about COVID-19, are planning for the treatment of future cases. Also, a look at how Michigan’s theaters are staying connected to audiences that can’t come to shows. Plus, college seniors fill us in on what it’s like to graduate—and enter the job market—during a pandemic.

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The rising number of COVID-19 deaths in Michigan has prompted the state to activate the Michigan Mortuary Response Team (MI-MORT) for the first time in its history.

MI-MORT is a collaborative effort of approximately 40 volunteers from across the state, including medical examiners and investigators, law enforcement, forensic scientists, chaplains and funeral directors.

Henry Ford Hospital, Detroit
Paulette Parker / Michigan Radio

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan on Thursday urged Governor Gretchen Whitmer to re-open portions of the medical system that have been closed by the COVID-19 pandemic, saying some people’s medical needs are “being neglected.”

Whitmer put a freeze on “non-essential” medical and dental procedures on March 20, citing the need to conserve health care resources as the pandemic was surging.

Grappling with a surge in critically ill patients, the lives of healthcare professionals in Michigan look very different than they did a few weeks ago. Detroit continues to be one of the nation's hotspots for COVID-19 cases and deaths, and Michigan has the third highest number of infections among all states.

Workers set up a field hospital at the TCF Center in Detroit.
Paulette Parker, Michigan Radio

Today on Stateside, Michigan’s healthcare system is facing major staffing challenges, as exhausted, under-equipped nurses consider their options. Plus, we take a deeper look at the longstanding health inequities fueling the disproportionate impact COVID-19 is having on African Americans. 

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Today on Stateside, families advocate for their loved ones isolated in hospitals amidst the COVID-19 crisis. Beaumont Health representative Kelly Parent weighs in on the communication options available between hospital staff and families unable to be present at their loved ones’ bedsides. Plus, how to maintain your mental health while you’re at home.

people at the detroit auto show
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Today on Stateside, it's hard to keep up with the daily rush of news about COVID-19 in Michigan. We talk with two reporters about some stories you might have missed.  Plus, writer Desiree Cooper offers perspective and advice about coping with uncertainty and loss. 

Henry Ford Hospital, Detroit
Paulette Parker / Michigan Radio

 

This story was updated March 27 at 9:15 am.

A draft letter outlining which patients would be prioritized if Henry Ford Health System runs out of ventilators or Intensive Care Unit beds, was leaked on social media Thursday night. 

 

This is a kind of “worst case scenario” letter, a spokesperson said in response, and the kind of planning that’s "standard with most reputable health systems."

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Last week, Michigan received a shipment of personal protective equipment from the national emergency stockpile.

The materials were shipped to all 45 local health departments in the state as well as the state's eight healthcare coalitions, divvied up by population.

But the total was a tiny fraction of what health care workers will need as they face an expected surge in COVID-19 patients. Hospitals across Michigan began accepting and soliciting donations over the weekend.

Surgery tools
Stanford EdTech / Flickr, http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

Two Detroit Medical Center hospitals are in danger of losing federal payments after they failed health and safety inspections last month.

State inspectors found multiple infection control violations at Detroit’s Harper and Receiving Hospitals, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services informed both hospitals in letters earlier this month.

An employee at three southeast Michigan health care facilities may have unwittingly exposed more than 600 people to tuberculosis.

Those health care facilities are Saint Joseph-Mercy Ann Arbor and Livingston hospitals, and the South Lyon Senior Care and Rehab Center.

It’s believed the infected worker may have exposed patients and staff at all three places between May of last year and January of this year.

Tuberculosis is a potentially serious bacterial disease that usually attacks the lungs.

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There is a continuing debate in Michigan, and nationally, about nursing staffing levels in hospitals and whether there's a shortage of nurses.

Here in Michigan, nurse advocates and some lawmakers are pushing for the Safe Patient Care Act.

MEDDYGARNET / FLICKR - http://bit.ly/1xMszCg

 

Does Michigan have a shortage of nurses?

That question is at the heart of a push by nurse advocates and some lawmakers for a state law that would set up mandatory nurse-to-patient ratios and prohibit hospitals from ordering nurses to work overtime.

Darko Stojanovic / Creative Commons

A new report from a public health watchdog called the Leapfrog Group ranks Michigan the 25th best state for hospital treatment.

Of the 79 hospitals graded, 25 earned an "A," 20 earned a "B," 31 earned a "C," and three earned a "D." These ratings are based on a hospital's reported errors, as well as systems in place to prevent errors.

Michigan dropped six spots since the last Leapfrog Hospital Safety report in the fall of 2016.

Surgery tools
Stanford EdTech / Flickr, http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

Officials say the Detroit Medical Center has spent $1.2 million since September to correct problems with dirty surgical instruments and has put multiple systems in place to ensure patient safety.

The Detroit News reports that the update follows recent revelations that a third hospital in the health system - Children's Hospital of Michigan - failed a January inspection.

Surgeon-in-Chief Joseph Lelli Jr. says he wants to reassure parents that their children are safe at the hospital.

Surgical instruments.
Windell Oskay / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

DETROIT - Detroit Medical Center says the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has approved its plan to address problems with its sterilization of surgical instruments. The medical center announced Tuesday the plan includes the formation of a surgical improvement council and task force to oversee instrument sterilization. It says the plan also addresses better policies and procedures for cleaning, processing and sterilization of instruments and enhanced training and monitoring.

Premature babies can benefit from donated or purchased breast milk
Sarah Hopkins / Creative Commons http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

Selling or donating human breast milk would be regulated by the state, and distributing “adulterated” breast milk would be a crime, under bills proposed by state Rep. Erika Geiss, D-Taylor.

Michigan's Bureau of Community and Health Systems has launched an investigation into dirty, broken, and missing instruments at Detroit Medical Center hospitals.

The investigation was prompted by a report in the Detroit News showing a pattern of improper cleaning and sterilization at DMC facilities,  putting patients at risk for over eleven years.

Sparrow Hospital entrance in Lansing
Allen Neighborhood Center / Creative Commons http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

The Michigan Nurses Association has filed an unfair labor complaint against Sparrow Hospital in Lansing.

It stems from the hospital's recent decision to close its substance abuse intake unit and move services to the hospital's main campus.

Public Domain

Hospitals are supposed to make their patients better, but some may be making patients sick.

A new set of hospital ratings from Consumer Reports says nine of the Detroit area's largest hospitals aren't doing enough to prevent patients from contracting infections during hospital stays.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Michigan hospitals may pay a price if the U.S. Supreme Court strikes down a key provision of the Affordable Care Act.

King v. Burwell is one of the final seven cases before the high court this term.   

The case involves a challenge to a specific portion of the federal health care insurance law dealing with federal subsidies. 

Grand Rapids' "medical mile"
John Eisenschenk / Creative Commons

Hospital expenses grew by 108% in Grand Rapids between 2002 and 2013, according to a study released today by Grand Valley State University. It compared the hospital market in Grand Rapids to Detroit and six other cities.

Patients are being admitted less often and have shorter stays.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

MARQUETTE, Mich. (AP) - Some hospitals in Michigan's Upper Peninsula are implementing restrictions on visitors to help prevent patients and staff from catching the flu.

  The Mining Journal of Marquette reported Wednesday that each patient at UP Health System-Marquette is allowed only two visitors and those are limited to the patient's advocate, immediate family member or significant other.

I seldom laugh out loud at anything I read, but I did at story in the Detroit News yesterday. The headline said: Snyder: Michigan has 1,000 isolation beds for Ebola. That’s all the proof I needed that, sure enough, we are all going to die. But before you put on your hazmat suit to walk the dog, I want to let you in on a little secret. 

We are indeed all going to die, but not of Ebola. I am frightened of many things, but I am not worried about Ebola in the least. If over the air gambling was legal, I’d happily bet anyone that nobody in Michigan is going to die of Ebola, ever. That is, unless they go to West Africa and come in contact with the body fluids of an infected person, and I’m not planning on that this weekend.

However, there is something that is hazardous to our emotional and mental health, and that is the appearance of any frightening disease close to an election.

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