COVID-19

Both Kalamazoo hospitals over 90% capacity

As COVID surges throughout the region, Kalamazoo's medical system is reaching its breaking point.

Kalamazoo’s Bronson Methodist Hospital and Ascension Borgess Hospital are both coming very close to being full. Bronson was at 93% capacity as of Thursday, and Borgess was at 91% capacity. Those numbers are worrying to medical experts at both hospitals and at Kalamazoo County Health and Community Services (KCHCS).

Representatives from all three organizations, as well as Oaklawn Hospital in Marshall, held a virtual roundtable Thursday to compare notes on the state of the pandemic. All agree, the state is not good.

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“Even if you’re in a small town and you think you’re a little bit immune. Nowhere is immune anymore. This is no longer a disease of urbanicity or being in the city, like it was in the springtime,” said Dr. Thomas Rohs, chief medical officer for Borgess.

Capacity: Both Kalamazoo hospitals said they have the ability to be flexible with their facilities. They are both relatively large hospitals, which means they can expand their physical space and their bed counts should the needs arise.

Oaklawn doesn’t have the same abilities, according to medical director Dr. Summer Liston-Crandall. She said it has started delaying some procedures to redirect resources to COVID-19.

“We’ve had to reach out to our community partners like Bronson and Borgess for transferring patients that we haven’t had room for,” she said.

Staffing: Staffing has been a major concern for all three hospitals. Recently, they’ve been asking nurses to refocus away from administrative work and toward COVID-19 care.

“We’re seeing extraordinary sacrifice from so many people as a way of leveraging the skills that are within the system,” said Bronson’s chief clinical officer Dr. Martinson Arnan. “Doing your part to stay safe and to keep your neighbors safe, to keep your vulnerable family members safe, is your way of saying, I valued that sacrifice.”

Rohs said Borgess has tried hiring temporary nurses to cope with the influx of coronavirus patients. Unfortunately, most hospitals are doing the same thing leading to a shortage of nurses throughout the region.

The good news: Kalamazoo’s medical professionals have learned a lot about caring for people with the coronavirus during the past eight months. Doctors have been using steroids to treat patients more often than in the spring and have access to the antiviral drug Remdesivir, which has been effective at keeping the coronavirus at bay.

All members of the panel were hopeful about recent news of COVID-19 vaccines being developed at Pfizer and other companies.

“I think that people have to understand that it’s miraculous that the vaccine was developed so fast,” said Bronson’s Arnan. “It’s also because a lot of bureaucratic things that sometimes slow things down were taken away, but the science was never diluted.”

Kalamazoo County is preparing to store and distribute the vaccines once they become available. All three hospitals have ordered freezer units that will allow them to store the vaccine as well.

Urging safety: Despite the hopeful tone, all three medical officials agreed the worst is not over. They urged people to do what they have to to stay safe from the virus. That means wearing masks, washing hands, and staying away from gatherings.

You can read more on MLive.