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Rise in COVID-19 cases causing manpower, testing supply shortages at Henry Ford Health System

Charles E. Ramirez
The Detroit News

Detroit — Henry Ford Health System is seeing an increase in COVID-19 cases, a spike in deaths related to the pandemic and a shortage in both medical workers and COVID-19 testing supplies, a top executive at the health care provider said Friday.

Adnan Munkarah, Henry Ford Health System's executive vice president and chief clinical officer, said positive COVID-19 tests at the health care provider were in the single digits a few weeks ago, but are now up to about 13% in the last few days.

"(It's) definitely very concerning and reflective of what we are seeing both from a state perspective and national perspective," he said.

Dr. Adnan Munkarah is executive vice president and chief clinical officer of the Henry Ford Health System.

Munkarah, who is also a doctor, made the remarks during a noon virtual news conference the health care system called to update the media on its response to the rising number of COVID-19 cases in the state.

His comments come as Michigan hospitals and emergency departments are rapidly filling up with COVID-19 patients and, in some cases, nearing capacity levels.

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Earlier this week, west Michigan hospital officials said a surge in coronavirus cases is causing staffing and bed shortages. 

On Thursday, Michigan broke another daily record with 6,940 new cases. It also added 45 deaths. The state's total of confirmed cases to 236,225 and total confirmed deaths to 7,811, according to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.

Signs of support for health care workers outside Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit on Mar. 31, 2020.

Munkarah said Friday the rise in cases is starting to cause a shortage in manpower in the Henry Ford Health System. He said 18 to 20 Henry Ford Health System employees are testing positive for COVID-19 daily. The health care provider employs more than 30,000.

"We share with other health care systems across the state as well as across the nation, a significant shortage in staffing," he said. " A significant part of this is related to (staff) exposure in the community. This is putting a significant strain on the community and on the health care system to make sure that we continue to provide the care that we need to provide for our patients."

To address the problem, Munkarah said, the system has stepped up its testing of employees.

The doctor also said the health care provider's supply of COVID-19 testing supplies is dwindling and causing a delay in results. Previously, staff was getting test results within 24 hours. Currently, it's taking about 36-48 hours to get them.

"(It's) definitely something that we need to deal with and we are working diligently to make sure that we have the supplies, but there are things that are more of a national crisis and more of a problem that we are facing going forward." 

Munkarah also spoke briefly about COVID vaccines and an antibody drug that are under development. Henry Ford Health System is working with drug-maker Moderna on one of them and is recruiting volunteers for a vaccine trial.

MoreHenry Ford Health recruiting volunteers for Moderna COVID-19 trial vaccine

In addition, he called on all Metro Detroiters and Michiganians to follow federal Centers for Disease Control and state guidelines to protect themselves from the virus and to combat its spread.

"So, while the numbers continue to climb we believe that there are many things that we can do at the present time to slow down the spread of the virus," Munkarah said. "Wearing masks, social distancing as well as limiting gatherings and hand hygiene are extremely effective and are really important and clinical measures for us to slow the spread of this virus."

cramirez@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @CharlesERamirez