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Lansing hospital: Protest caused delays at shift change

Beth LeBlanc
The Detroit News

Lansing — A Thursday rally in downtown Lansing caused some delays for nurses and doctors at a local hospital, a spokesman said. 

With thousands packing the streets in and around the Michigan Capitol during “Operation Gridlock,” some Sparrow Hospital workers were delayed in making their shifts, prompting other health care workers to stay longer after shift change, hospital spokesman John Foren said.

"The campus was accessible," Foren said. "But the streets were really crowded and that’s where the delays were.”

Foren did not have specific information about the number of workers delayed or the length of time of the delayed shifts.

Sparrow Hospital is on Michigan Avenue, about a mile and a half east of the Capitol, where Michigan State Police estimate between 3,000 and 4,000 people showed up for the vehicle rally protesting provisions of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s stay-home order. 

Dozens left their vehicles to protest on foot, but the number of people on the Capitol lawn didn’t rise above 150 people at any one time, said Michigan State Police First Lt. Darren Green. 

One person was arrested after an altercation between two protesters, but no other citations or arrests were made, Green said. 

During a Wednesday press conference while the protest was underway, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer criticized the protesters and said the demonstration would “come at a cost to people’s health.”

"The sad irony here is that the protest was that they don't like being in this stay-home order, and they may have just created a need to lengthen it," Whitmer said. "...Just by congregating, they've made that a real possibility."

A person walks into Sparrow Hospital near a tent set up outside the Lansing hospital on Tuesday. March 31, 2020. The sign in front of the tent reads, "EMS respiratory isolation patient enter here."

The Democratic governor also referenced delays to city bus services and social media posts about delayed ambulances, apparently referring photos on social media showing an ambulance stuck in traffic near the Capitol. 

Despite some "confusion," Lansing police had no complaints of any ambulance being locked in traffic during an emergency, said Robert Merritt, a spokesman for the Lansing Police Department. When ambulances on non-emergency runs were in traffic, "rally participants slowly cleared a path."

"There were NO complaints from any emergency services vehicle being held up while on an emergency run (lights and siren)," Merritt said in an email. 

"There are many photos/videos floating around that show an ambulance moving slow within the vehicles in the rally. This ambulance and some other emergency services vehicles (not on emergency runs) were seen driving through parts of the rally."

Sparrow’s ambulance entrances to and from the hospital remained clear throughout the rally, Foren said. While it may have been possible some ambulances were stuck in traffic farther out from the hospital, Foren said he had received no such reports.