Health systems secure additional federal staffing assistance

Mercy Health Muskegon. Courtesy The Christman Company

The federal government granted Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s request for additional staffing assistance at a fourth Michigan hospital.

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) last week said Mercy Health Muskegon will receive help from a 17-person medical team in support its of doctors and nurses as they treat COVID-19 and other patients, beginning Dec. 30 for the next 30 days. Three other health systems in the state, including Spectrum Health Grand Rapids, also received a 30-day extension of federal staffing help after aid was initiated earlier this month.

“We are very grateful for the additional support from the state and federal levels to provide essential support for our care staff as they are in the midst of this fourth surge in Michigan,” said Gary Allore, president of Mercy Health Muskegon. “COVID-19 has put our frontline staff under the most extreme conditions, but their unwavering commitment to the safety and health of all members of our community holds true. We need everyone’s collective help to emerge out of this pandemic together.”

Mercy Health Muskegon’s additional staffing team includes registered nurses, a doctor and other health care workers who will assist with providing monoclonal antibody treatment and other support duties.

“We continue to be grateful that our federal partners are supporting the dedicated health care staff in our state as they work to care for Michiganders during this latest surge of COVID-19,” said Elizabeth Hertel, director, MDHHS. “The pandemic continues to take a tremendous toll on our health care workers, and we are pleading with all Michiganders to do their part to support our state’s health care workers by getting vaccinated, wearing a mask in public indoor settings regardless of vaccination status, social distancing, and staying home and getting tested regularly.”

MDDHS is asking Michigan residents to consider if they truly need the emergency room for health care. The department suggests seeking care at a primary care office, virtual visit or urgent care facility when possible, as emergency rooms are experiencing record levels of demand. Those in need of immediate help with conditions such as stroke symptoms, chest pain, difficulty breathing, significant injury or uncontrolled bleeding still should seek emergency care.

According to MDHHS, the federal teams were initiated in response to the strain on Michigan hospitals due to a spike in COVID patients, the vast majority of whom are unvaccinated. In October, unvaccinated individuals saw 4.3 times the risk of testing positive for COVID and were 13.2 times more likely to die from the disease than those who were fully vaccinated. Similarly, from Jan. 3-Dec. 15, unvaccinated or not fully vaccinated individuals represented 85.1% of COVID cases, 88.1% of hospitalizations and 85.5% of deaths. As of Dec. 20, 3,944 people in Michigan were hospitalized for COVID.

“As the omicron variant quickly becomes the dominant strain of COVID-19 across the United States, I am grateful to our federal partners for their continued support that is providing much-needed relief to Michigan’s hospitals and health care personnel,” Whitmer said. “Michigan’s health care heroes have been on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic for over 18 months, and I am again asking Michiganders to take steps to help reduce the strain on our hospital systems. First, get vaccinated, and, if you are eligible, get your booster to help keep you out of the hospital.”

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