Michigan health leaders: COVID-19 field hospitals are possible if illness keeps spreading

More than 3,000 patients are hospitalized with COVID-19 illnesses as of Wednesday
Interior view of the TCF Center, Wednesday, April 1, 2020 in Detroit, built to accommodate an...
Interior view of the TCF Center, Wednesday, April 1, 2020 in Detroit, built to accommodate an overflow of patients with the coronavirus. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers began construction at the TCF Center on Tuesday to create a quarantined hospital setting with 1,000 beds as the pandemic spreads rapidly in the city. The Corps will adapt more than 250,000 square feet of the center on two separate floors for the additional hospital beds and medical personnel stations. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio) (WILX)
Published: Nov. 12, 2020 at 12:00 PM EST
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LANSING, Mich. (WJRT) - Leaders from Michigan’s largest hospital systems offered a grim picture if COVID-19 continues spreading rapidly around the state.

Field hospitals are possible again this fall as Michigan’s hospitals face a strain from rising admissions of confirmed and probable coronavirus patients, according to a joint statement from a group of hospital executives from across the state.

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services reported more than 3,000 patients hospitalized with confirmed or probable COVID-19 illnesses on Wednesday, which is the highest since last spring. Hospitals were treating 4,000 COVID-19 patients at the peak in April.

At that time, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers worked with Detroit-area hospitals to set up special field hospitals at the TCF Center in Detroit and the Suburban Collection Showplace in Novi. Both closed after treating minimal patients, but officials say they may be needed again this winter.

“We are facing a very grim reality this fall if Michigan residents don’t take this virus seriously – the number of admissions for COVID-19 patients at our hospitals has doubled over the past two weeks and these numbers aren’t sustainable,” said Henry Ford Health System President and CEO Wright Lassiter III.

Rather than an upward curve of new COVID-19 hospitalizations, he said they are seeing a near vertical line.

Michigan Health & Hospital Association CEO Brian Peters pointed out that COVID-19 hospitalizations increased by six times from 400 to 2,559 in six weeks and are on pace to double again in two weeks. He called on everyone to follow basic coronavirus prevention measures.

“We know these tools help slow the rate of spread, but we need everyone to work together for it to be effective," Peters said. "Hospitals across Michigan are going to be overwhelmed if we don’t work together to stop the spread.”

Beaumont Health CEO John Fox said thousands of Michigan residents are receiving COVID-19 tests every week and infection rates are growing rapidly.

"This is truly a serious situation,” he said. “People are delaying care for cancer and other conditions because people are afraid to go to the hospital. The tentacles of COVID-19 are long, and we all have to work together to cut them off.”

Dr. Bobby Mukkamala of Flint, who is president of the Michigan State Medical Society, warned that hospitals in Genesee County quickly were filling with COVID-19 patients this week. He said gyms may be transformed into field hospitals if facilities get inundated.

A nurse at Ascension Genesys Hospital in Grand Blanc Township said the facility was treating 80 coronavirus patients on Wednesday and 16 of them were in intensive care. The hospital’s intensive care unit holds 18 patients and one had to stay in a storage room Tuesday night.

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