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Current COVID wave the longest, hospitalizations higher than ever

Jae C. Hong
AP Photo

Of the three major waves of COVID-19 hospitalizations to hit Kalamazoo, doctors say the current one is the worst because it's lasting so long.

Dr. Aaron Lane-Davies is the chief of quality for Bronson Medical Group.  As a pediatric hospitalist, Lane-Davies cares for the youngest COVID patients, including infants requiring oxygen support to breathe.

Lane-Davies says he’s seen “the largest number of COVID patients in the hospital that we’ve had at any point during the pandemic. That’s been true for the last several weeks.”

Photo of Bronson physician, Dr. Aaron Lane-Davies.
Credit Courtesy Photo, Bronson Healthcare
Dr. Aaron Lane-Davies, Chief of Quality, Bronson Medical Group

Patients needing critical care or patients needing to be transferred to other hospitals. Lane-Davies says every healthcare system, particularly in Michigan, is in, “this dire situation of not having enough resources to care for the community in a way that we are used too.”  

As a result, procedures and non-emergency surgeries like orthopedic back surgery, a hysterectomy, or anything that requires an overnight stay is being deferred, cancelled, or postponed. Unlike previous COVID-19 waves, Lane-Davies says this one is not letting up.

“This surge really started began back in late July and August, and we have just been climbing steadily ever since then,” Lane-Davies says.  “It’s both the duration of that surge and the height of it. We’re now seeing more and more hospitalized COVID patients than we have at any point during the pandemic. Those two things in combination have been just tremendously draining for our teams and tremendously stressful on the health infrastructure of Southwest Michigan.”

Bronson Hospital says it's at about 98 percent capacity. That is up from 87.6 percent during the week of November. 19. Ascension Borgess Hospital Kalamazoo did not respond to WMUK’s request for information, but reported a hospital bed occupancy of 85.6 percent for the week of Nov. 19.

“We never got back to the point where we didn’t have COVID patients in the hospital, so there has not been a break, coming up on the last two years” Lane-Davies says. “It’s important for the community to understand how hard people have been working and that is stretching our system in ways that it has not been stretched before.”

Most of those who are sick are unvaccinated.  The Bronson COVID-19 Information Center indicates that 80 percent of Bronson’s COVID patients have not received a vaccine.

“Our most fragile patients, our older patients, those 70 and above and certainly 80 and above who are medically fragile, we see sort of a mix of both vaccinated and not vaccinated patients,” said Lane-Davies. “But for the younger groups, those less than 70 and certainly those less than 60, the vast majority of patients are unvaccinated.”

For patients with other health issues, Lane-Davies asks for patience.

“You’re going to wait longer for care that we know is important.  You’re going to wait longer for care that is absolutely necessary, and the reason that you are waiting is because of this unprecedented crisis in American healthcare and in healthcare here in Southwest Michigan,” Lane-Davis says, along with an old request and a new warning.

“If you are eligible, please be vaccinated against the diseases for which we have vaccines. And most importantly, right now, in this time, in this day, is to be vaccinated against COVID and to be vaccinated against influenza. We are beginning to see cases of influenza in our community, and those cases, we do not have the capacity. We are already beyond our capacity and adding additional people sick with influenza is just an additional stress the system, the community, our region, cannot manage. And so, if you’ve not gotten your flu shot this year, please get your flu shot.  If you’ve not had a COVID vaccine, please get your COVID vaccine.”   

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