‘Round after round of Covid.’ Military personnel help a Michigan hospital that’s inundated with Covid patients and short on staff

‘Round after round of Covid.’ Military personnel help a Michigan hospital that’s inundated with Covid patients and short on staff

Zafar Shamoon, chief of the emergency department at the Beaumont Hospital in Dearborn, Michigan, said he had been hoping that there wouldn’t be another wave of Covid-19 infections and hospitalizations.

But, like a grim deja vu, hospital beds are filled with Covid-19 patients again, most unvaccinated. This time, those numbers are compounded by more non-Covid-19 patients, who doctors say may have been delaying their surgeries and treatments or staying at home during earlier surges.

In this hospital, and hospitals across the country, staff numbers are down because of resignations, widespread burnout after more than a year of battling the virus on the front line and, in some cases, a fear of contracting the illness.

To help supplement hospital staffing, the Department of Defense sent nearly two dozen US Army members to help fill in the holes and care for the roughly 500 patients the facility is treating these days.

Throughout the pandemic, the military has dispatched members to assist with coronavirus response in hospitals in states like New York, Texas, and Louisiana that were stretched thin after an influx of patients.

About 130 of the Dearborn hospital’s patients have been diagnosed with Covid, said David Claeys, president of Beaumont, Dearborn and Farmington Hills hospitals. Across the Beaumont Hospital system, there are nearly 600 Covid-19 patients.

Staff members say they really need the help.

“Our (emergency rooms) have never been fuller, our (intensive care units) have never been fuller,” Shamoon said. “The Department of Defense coming has really been a breath of fresh air.”

Hospitals across the US face a triple whammy: Staff shortages, an influx of non-Covid-19 patients and dangerous variants of the virus taking off again.

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine this week deployed more than 1,000 National Guard members to hospitals across the state. In Oregon, officials warned that a surge fueled by the new Omicron variant could overwhelm hospitals and surpass patient numbers that the Delta surge created earlier this year.

California health officials said Friday they were seeing hospitalization numbers begin to trend upward, stressing the need for vaccinations and booster vaccines. In New York, officials said this week they’re seeing the highest hospitalization rate they’ve recorded in months, with Gov. Kathy Hochul noting that the staff shortages will weigh into potential new restrictions.

“Sometimes I go home and I’m wondering how my staff will deal with this the next day, but we do it,” said Shamoon. “There’s so many heroic, untold stories that happen in the walls of this hospital on a daily basis, too many to count actually. That’s what brings me back.”

Unvaccinated patients wish they’d gotten the shot

In Michigan, health officials said Friday the state’s hospitals are “overburdened” with Covid-19 patients, most of whom are not vaccinated.

Lt. Col. Theresa Nowak, an Army Nurse Corps Officer, said the team’s mission is to embed into hospital departments that need help so that patients can get the care they need and be discharged quicker.

Across the Beaumont system, of the 583 patients being treated for the virus, 443 had not received their shots, and of the 74 in an ICU, 55 were unvaccinated, according to data from the hospital system.

“Our patients that are not vaccinated, that are at the hospital for the most part will tell you, ‘I wish now that I was vaccinated. This isn’t worth it,’ ” said Lissa Maddox, who has been a registered nurse for nearly two years. “Our patients are sick, they’re very sick and 100% of them will tell you that they wish they would have gotten the vaccine.”

It’s disheartening,” Maddox added, “But, you know, everybody has a choice.”

Sara Pristavu, a 25-year-old Covid-19 patient in the hospital who did not share her vaccination status with CNN, said she was thankful for the staff. Getting the vaccine, Pristavu told CNN, should be a personal choice but urged Americans to be cautious of the virus.

“To each their own,” she said. “Whatever you feel is right, that’s what you feel and if you decide to do it, great. If you decide that’s not for you, great.”

Pristavu said her father, who is in his 60s, is in the same hospital with the virus.

‘Round after round’

Across the country, roughly 68,900 Americans are hospitalized with Covid-19, according to data from the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. More than 20% of all ICU beds in use are occupied with Covid-19 patients, the data shows.

After several surges of the virus across the country, and now more than 800,000 Americans dead, many in the healthcare profession retired. Others, severely burned out and traumatized, left.

“In the beginning, we had the help. And after we were going round after round of Covid we began to lose more and more staff,” said Crystal Kopriva, an assistant clinical manager at the hospital’s current Covid Unit.

The military personnel that have been working within the hospital for roughly two weeks include critical care nurses, doctors, respiratory therapists and a command and control team.

Lt. Colonel Don Dendy told CNN that before being stationed in this facility, he was helping in a hospital in Mississippi.

“Before Covid, in the army, I never really saw missions like this, where we went out and filled in in hospitals in the states,” he said.

But Dendy added he’s glad that the military can help because he understands the strain faced by healthcare workers, who in pre-pandemic times were already confronted with staff shortages, are now facing.

“People are just like, I can’t do this many shifts and keep working overtime,” Dendy said.

The hospital healthcare workers said all they can do is treat patients as best as they can and continue to encourage vaccinations.

“Will I break in three months? will I break in a year? will I break in 10? I don’t have that answer for you right now,” Maddox said. “I’m battling this with my patients and I don’t see a stop anytime soon.”

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