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The head of Michigan’s largest health care system on Sunday called for a more accurate and transparent daily COVID-19 statewide hospital census.

Beaumont Health CEO John Fox urged the state of Michigan to require health systems statewide to share more complete data with each other and be more transparent with the public. As of 10:30 a.m. on Sunday, Beaumont is caring for 1,074 confirmed COVID-19 patients systemwide, Fox said

"Some other health systems in our region are also seeing large numbers of COVID-19 patients," Fox said in a statement. "However, without an accurate daily census report that indicates how many COVID-19 confirmed patients are in each hospital and how many in each hospital are still awaiting test results, it is impossible to know how different parts of Michigan are being affected by the virus."

Fox said about half of the patients in Beaumont hospitals that are tested for COVID-19 are confirmed as positive.

"Even with the limited information we have, we know southeast Michigan is the state’s ground zero for the pandemic,” Fox said.

Fox said "in the spirit of transparency," Beaumont began sharing a daily update of its COVID-19 patients on March 19, six days after the health system’s first confirmed case on March 13.

Michigan Department of Health and Human Services Director Robert Gordon issued an emergency order March 24 requiring "timely" reporting by hospitals of resources such as bed capacity, staffing shortages and inventory of personal protective equipment, ventilators and other supplies.

Lynn Sutfin, spokeswoman for MDHHS, said accurate data on hospital capacity and hospital utilization are needed to plan for potential surges in the number of cases in specific geographic areas of the state to address gaps between availability and need.

"This is why MDHHS Director Robert Gordon issued an Emergency Order on March 24 ...that hospitals in the state of Michigan must abide by MDHHS’ instructions on reporting of information related to COVID-19 response," Sutfin said.

MDHHS has received this information from many hospitals, with Beaumont health system reporting robustly into the system, Sutfin said.

"However, not all hospitals are regularly reporting and MDHHS is working to improve response rate into the system and plans to include improved additional information in the coming days," Sutfin said.

Jason Barczy, communications manager for the Detroit Medical Center, said on Sunday that DMC reports all of its COVID-19 patient numbers to the state as required, and provides the same information to our physicians and staff.

"While we are not releasing patient numbers, we have made it very clear that like many hospital systems, the demand to care for the ever-increasing number of patients is putting a strain on our resources and staff," Barczy said. "Surge plans are in place at all of our hospitals to handle the increase in patient volumes to ensure we provide the safest and most appropriate care for our patients.”

“We are using all available space in our hospitals to care for patients. We have converted operating rooms, outpatient areas and recovery rooms into patient treatment areas to handle the surge,” Barczy said.

Beginning Sunday, Fox said Beaumont will share additional data on its website daily and post a graph to show the number of COVID-19 patients hospitalized across the Beaumont system.

“Beaumont believes the state needs to collect accurate, real-time data from all hospitals across Michigan and share it in an open and transparent way, just as we have been doing at Beaumont Health,” Fox said.

“As the state’s largest health system, we have been advocating for this both publicly and behind the scenes," Fox said. "This is an unprecedented situation. Faster action is needed to ensure we can care for the influx of COVID-19 patients over the next few weeks and months, in addition to those we serve who need emergency or trauma care, have heart attacks, give birth or need other truly emergent medical services.”

Michigan now has more than 15,700 confirmed cases of COVID-19 as the number of deaths reported in Detroit spiked Sunday.

The numbers and data posted on Beaumont.org/coronavirus are a daily snapshot in time, Fox said.

The health system is also relying upon several predictive models which currently forecast a surge of patients will hit Beaumont and other health systems later this month or in early May, he said. 

“We also remain concerned that the absence of adequate data and a state-enabled patient load-balancing system could result in additional and avoidable risks for patients,” Fox said.

The Detroit News reported on March 30 that the COVID-19 pandemic has forged unprecedented cooperation between Metro Detroit health systems on potential treatments for the respiratory illness but also created tension as they coordinate how to spread patients in crowded facilities to less-filled ones across Michigan.  

Fox told The News at the time that the effort at balancing patient loads across hospital systems “is not going smoothly."

“Right now, it’s a function of luck” if another hospital will open its doors to transfers, Fox told The News on March 30, "or the medical directors have to ask and beg and cajole, and it’s not effective.” He blamed the problem on a combination of incomplete data being provided by some hospitals to the state and worry among relief hospitals of quickly being overwhelmed by the transfers.

Beaumont is Michigan's largest health system with 3,108 beds across its hospitals in Royal Oak, Troy, Dearborn, Farmington Hills, Wayne, Trenton and Taylor and Grosse Pointe, according to 2017 reports compiled by Michigan health care analyst Allan Baumgarten. 

jchambers@detroitnews.com

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