Beaumont Dearborn gets U.S. Army help to deal with COVID-19 surge

Karen Bouffard
The Detroit News

A team of 23 military nurses, doctors, respiratory therapists and other personnel have been stationed at Beaumont Hospital in Dearborn to assist with COVID-19 as coronavirus cases swamp hospitals across Michigan. 

The U.S. Army contingent is part of the federal response to a fourth surge of coronavirus that is sweeping the country fueled by the delta variant, even as yet another potentially dangerous iteration — omicron — was identified this week in California, Minnesota, New York and Colorado.

Members of the Department of Defense tour Beaumont Hospital in Dearborn in preparation for the nursing assistance they are providing, on Monday, Nov. 29, 2021.

"Currently at Beaumont Health, we have about 620 COVID patients throughout the health system; this is on top of all the normal, traditional care that we provide at this time of year," David Claeys, co-CEO of the eight-hospital health system and president of Beaumont Dearborn Hospital, said at a Friday press briefing. "That's about a 200% increase in COVID patients since Sept. 30."

About 80 of the Dearborn hospital's beds have been closed due to lack of enough staff, Claeys added. Of the hospital's 500 available beds, 110 are occupied by COVID-19 patients.

"We are concerned that this exacerbation and surge in COVID will surpass last year's at this time, as well as March 2021's surge," Claeys added. "That's a great concern for us.

"Both emergency rooms and medical surgical units and intensive care units across the system are at or near capacity, taking care of both non-COVID and COVID patients."

Michigan added a total of 18,443 cases Thursday and Friday, with 277 deaths, according to the latest numbers from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. The additions bring the state's totals to 1,336,566 confirmed cases and 24,367 deaths from the virus since the pandemic began in March 2020.

Michigan hit a new record of adult hospitalizations from the virus Monday, with 80% of all hospital inpatient beds full, according to the state health department. 

Lt. Col. Stephen Duryea, the officer in charge of the U.S. Army's Medical Response Team, said they're in Michigan as part of the Department of Defense's ongoing COVID-19 operations in cooperation with the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

The team includes 14 critical care nurses; four doctors including two internists and two pulmonary critical care physicians; two respiratory therapists; and a three-member command and control team. 

"Our job here is to support FEMA and be able to be here for what the hospital needs," Duryea said. "We're proud to be here and be part of the whole-of-government response."

The Medical Response Team will remain at Beaumont Dearborn for about 30 days. Duryea said other Michigan health systems have applied for similar Department of Defense assistance, and those requests are under discussion by state and federal officials. 

The U.S. Army team is expected to be at Beaumont Dearborn for about 30 days.

The U.S. Army recently completed a similar two-month mission in Tupelo, Miss., Duryea said.

"Generally, our team will be assisting in the ICU and in the emergency department to reduce patient ratios and certainly provide better care, so hopefully if somebody's infected by COVID they can have a better outcome," he said. 

The assistance is part of the U.S. Army North COVID-19 Hospital Support, a joint military operation that began in August 2021, according to a press release. The effort is funded by the Department of Defense, in support of FEMA and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

So far, approximately 435 military medical personnel from the U.S. Army, Air Force and Navy have helped treat COVID-19 patients alongside civilian health care providers in hospitals in Alabama, Arkansas, Colorado, Idaho, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, New Mexico, Tennessee, Utah and Washington.