Outdoor tent serves as waiting room at Mercy Health Muskegon during COVID-19 surge

·3 min read

Mercy Health Muskegon is using a climate-controlled tent outside the west Michigan hospital's emergency department to serve as a waiting room because of high patient volumes during the coronavirus surge.

The tent outside the building was set up Dec. 4 in case it would be needed and was first put into use Thursday when the hospital was about 99% capacity, Dr. Justin Grill, chief medical officer, said Monday.

He said the nurse-staffed tent will act as a waiting room space so the current emergency department waiting room can be converted into clinical space to care for patients.

"The tent will only be in operation during times of highest volumes, and will not be used overnight," Grill said.

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The hospital was at 97% occupancy Monday, he said, with the intensive care unit at 140% capacity. There are 67 patients who are positive with COVID-19, 21 of whom are at ICU status.

"We cannot provide the exact numbers on vaccination status at this time, but we can share that most of our current COVID (positive) inpatients — around 70-80% — are unvaccinated," he said. "All COVID positive patients currently on ventilators are unvaccinated, with the exception of one who has not had all recommended doses."

Benzie-Leelanau District Health Department registered nurse Dawn Hynds draws a dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine during a community vaccination event at Northport Public School in Northport on Sept. 16, 2021.
Benzie-Leelanau District Health Department registered nurse Dawn Hynds draws a dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine during a community vaccination event at Northport Public School in Northport on Sept. 16, 2021.

Grill said the hospital also is seeing a lot of non-urgent or non-emergent care in the emergency department, as well as people seeking a COVID-19 test.

He, like other health care officials in Michigan, urges people to call their primary care physician or use urgent care for medical concerns and the emergency department for emergent medical needs during this surge.

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Grill said Mercy Health Muskegon received an emergency Certificate of Need on Dec. 7 to add temporary hospital beds in existing space to treat patients.

An emergency department conference room was converted into temporary clinical space, he said. Some private patient rooms were turned into semi-private rooms to accommodate the current volume of inpatients.

Hospital officials throughout Michigan are bracing for an influx of patients at the same time they are dealing with thousands of their own workers off the job because they tested positive for COVID-19 or were exposed to it.

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Hospitals also are postponing some elective procedures in this surge, fueled by the highly transmissible omicron variant.

On Monday, the state set a new pandemic record for the number of people hospitalized with confirmed cases of COVID-19.

There were 4,674 people, including 94 children, hospitalized with confirmed cases of the virus in Michigan hospitals, according to state health department data. The previous record was 4,566 on Dec. 13.

Beaumont Health said it is treating 857 COVID-19 patients at its eight hospitals, the highest since the pandemic began.

Michigan averaged about 14,841 new cases of coronavirus each of the last three days, according to state data.

Staff writer Kristen Jordan Shamus contributed to this report.

Contact Christina Hall: chall@freepress.com. Follow her on Twitter: @challreporter.

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This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Outdoor tent is waiting room at west Michigan hospital in COVID-19 surge

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