Beaumont nears capacity: 635 hospitalized for COVID-19 with limited ventilators

Karen Bouffard
The Detroit News

Beaumont Health is caring for 635 patients with confirmed or suspected COVID-19, putting pressure on the eight-hospital system as it nears capacity for staffing, protective equipment and ventilators, the Royal Oak-based health system said Tuesday. 

The health system has been transferring patients between hospitals to find space and is beginning to convert some operating rooms into intensive care units, Beaumont Health Chief Operating Officer Carolyn Wilson said.

Beaumont Hospital Royal Oak staff members perform curbside testing for COVID-19 and the flu for people at the North parking lot at Beaumont Hospital earlier this month.

“We have been actively transferring COVID-19 patients within our system to other Beaumont hospitals, as appropriate, if one hospital has more capacity than another," Wilson said. "However, across our system, we are facing limitations and nearing capacity with our staffing, personal protective equipment and mechanical ventilators."

Beaumont Health system officials said they currently have enough ventilators to treat seriously ill COVID-19 patients, "but that could change as more people become infected," according to the health system. 

“We are taking steps to increase our capacity, such as converting some of our operating rooms into intensive care units,” it said in a statement.

The crush of patients prompted Beaumont Health officials to call on the state Department of Health and Human Services to coordinate the allocation of hospital resources and beds across the region and Michigan.

Beaumont CEO John Fox said the health system is attempting to coordinate with other hospital systems so no one organization is overwhelmed.

"We have been discussing statewide coordination with other hospitals and MDHHS to care for COVID-19 patients," Fox said in a statement. "We also recognize some systems might not be caring for as many COVID-19 patients as others right now. All health systems in Michigan need to work together to help care for these patients."

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

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. 

Michigan health officials said confirmed cumulative cases statewide reached almost on 1,800 on Tuesday with 24 deaths. 

As of 4:30 p.m. Tuesday, Beaumont Health had 450 patients confirmed to have COVID-19 and another 185 suspected cases with test results pending. 

Michigan Medicine, Beaumont's closest competitor with 1,000 beds, was treating 24 inpatients with confirmed COVID-19 as of late Tuesday, said Mary Masson, spokeswoman for the University of Michigan health system. 

Henry Ford Health System was treating 170 inpatients for coronavirus across its five hospitals as of 9 a.m. Tuesday, the latest count available. 

For-profit Detroit Medical Center refused to say how many COVID-19 patients its system of eight hospitals is treating. 

"(We) aren’t providing information related to COVID-19 patients," DMC spokesman Brian Taylor said in an email to The Detroit News. "I can tell you that we can safely and appropriately care for our patients with the necessary supplies and equipment."

The first person to die of the coronavirus in Michigan was a patient at one of Beaumont Health's four Wayne County hospitals. The man from Southgate was in his 50s and had underlying health conditions that put him at greater risk with the virus.

State health department spokeswoman Lynn Sutfin did not respond to a question late Tuesday about whether the state has enough information from the state's hospitals to coordinate reallocation of resources such as beds and medical equipment across the region or state. 

But Sutfin did say "Southeast Michigan hospitals are working with health care coalitions and MDHHS to identify hospitals in minimally impacted areas of the state to provide support."

"Health care coalitions routinely work with hospitals to meet medical surge requirements," she said.