Henry Ford Health delays some non-urgent surgeries amid COVID surge

Karen Bouffard
The Detroit News

The Henry Ford Health System has begun to delay non-urgent medical procedures at some of its five hospitals to cope with a surge of COVID-19 hospitalizations that officials described Wednesday as the highest since the start of the pandemic. 

As of Wednesday morning, the Detroit-based system had 500 COVID-19 patients either already admitted or in emergency departments waiting for beds to open up, Dr. Adnan Munkarah, the chief clinical officer for the Detroit-based Henry Ford Health System, said during a Wednesday press briefing. 

Emergency departments at Henry Ford hospitals are either at capacity or close to it, and are often operating as inpatient units because no other beds are available, said Robert Riney, president of health care operations and chief operating officer at the health system. 

"(Hospital officials) are evaluating capacity and staffing levels multiple times a day, and we are making some difficult choices. For instance, last week, there was an entire day when Allegiance Hospital had to postpone all of their non-urgent sensitive procedures and surgeries," Riney said. 

"Some of our other hospitals including Henry Ford Hospital have also had to make those tough decisions to delay some non-time sensitive procedures or move them to other locations. 

"We have been keeping those to an absolute minimum, but it is incredibly stressful and more difficult to do, and we'll be challenged even more as we go into the holidays." 

Riney noted that some people are coming the health system's emergency departments to be tested for COVID-19, placing unnecessary additional stress on the system. 

"If you think you have COVID, it's vitally important that you do get tested, but we're asking people to visit one of the many testing sites around southeast and central Michigan, rather than coming into hospital ERs," he said. 

"We want to be clear," Riney added. "If you need emergency care, do not hesitate — please get to our emergency rooms in a prompt fashion. We are here for you and will provide that care. But if it's something that can be addressed or treated with your primary care physician or even an urgent care center, please consider that first."

Michigan on Monday added 16,143 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 160 deaths from the virus, including totals from Saturday and Sunday. The additions brought state totals since the pandemic began to 1,396,467 confirmed cases and 25,240 deaths since the pandemic began in March 2020.

Michigan averaged 5,381 cases over the three days. Of the latest deaths reported, 36 were identified during a vital records review, state health officials noted.

In recent days, Michigan's top health officials have described the state's COVID-19 situation as "critical," and urged vaccinations and boosters and masking amid a fourth surge of the virus that's bringing record levels of hospitalizations.

Dr. Natasha Bagdasarian, the state's chief medical executive, said Friday that deaths tied to the virus were increasing, along with infection rates and hospitalizations.

COVID-19 admissions have increase 34% at the health system in just the past month, said Adnan Munkarah, Henry Ford's executive vice president and chief clinical officer. 

"About 75% to 80% of COVID patients that are admitted are unvaccinated, and more than 85% of COVID patients on ventilators in the ICU are unvaccinated," Munkarah added. 

"This is straining our health system significantly because this is taking away from resources that are needed for non-COVID patients." 

kbouffard@detroitnews.com