Nurse: Ascension Genesys treats intensive care patient in storage room

She and other nurses are frustrated that the hospital didn’t spend the summer preparing better for a surge
Published: Nov. 11, 2020 at 6:12 PM EST
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GRAND BLANC TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WJRT) - As more and more people across our state test positive for coronavirus, the health care system is becoming overwhelmed and running out of beds.

Ascension Genesys Hospital in Grand Blanc Township had to put a patient in a storage room Tuesday night, according to a nurse speaking on behalf of the Teamsters Local 332 union. Nurse Kim Cox said an intensive care patient spent Tuesday night in a room normally used to store equipment.

Michigan is experiencing a third surge of COVID-19. For weeks, the number of positive cases has continued rising and setting new records.

The number of confirmed or probable coronavirus patients in Michigan hospitals topped 3,000 on Wednesday, which is more than 800 higher than a week ago. More than 37,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases have been reported in Michigan over the past seven days.

Another Ascension Genesys nurse said the hospital was treating about 80 COVID-19 patients on Tuesday and 16 of them were in the intensive care unit, which has 18 beds.

Like all hospitals, Ascension Genesys is treating other sick people, performing surgeries and handling other health emergencies beyond the coronavirus pandemic. Cox, who is the nurse union chief steward, said that creates a problem, because COVID-19 patients have to be treated separately.

So the hospital has run out of room in the regular intensive care unit, forcing the nurses to transform what’s always been a storage unit for their extra equipment and extra monitors into a patient’s ICU room. Cox said that also happened in March, when the coronavirus pandemic reached Michigan.

She is frustrated because she believes Ascension Genesys should have been prepared better for the surge in cases this fall and properly equipped the room last summer to handle a patient.

“We all as a community and hospital knew we were getting a second round of COVID. That wasn’t an, ‘Are we?’ It was a, ‘When are we,’” Cox said. “At no point in time did we think, ‘Oh, because you know spring came our numbers went down. You know COVID won’t come back around.’ We knew it was coming, it was just a matter of when it was coming. And they’re not prepared.”

She said the storage room is large enough to accommodate an intensive care patient, but it lacks some of the systems that display the patient’s vital signs on monitors outside. That allows staff to keep a close eye on vulnerable patients.

“If you’re not in that room on the hour to get your vitals, they’re not stored like the other monitors store and transfer information to the computer,” Cox said. “So if your other patient is not doing well or tanking, you could miss vital information.”

This is happening while nurses feel exhausted from working overtime repeatedly. Cox said Ascension Genesys has 32% less staff than necessary to properly care for intensive care patients.

“You don’t have enough staff for the rooms you have now. Why in the world would you open another room that doesn’t have enough staff?” she said.

Cox can’t understand why nothing was done to prepare the hospital for this surge during the summer months.

“Why are they not trying to make things better and work with the union to try to prevent and make this second go around an easier go around for everybody involved?” she said.

Cox agreed that gyms could be transformed into makeshift hospitals soon if current COVID-19 trends continue.

An Ascension Genesys spokeswoman offered the following statement Wednesday in response to the nurse union official’s concerns:

“The health and safety of our patients, associates and visitors continues to be our top priorities. We follow all Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines and are working closely with the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services to monitor and ensure the best possible care for patients with potential or confirmed cases of COVID-19.”

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