Chelsea Community Forum summary from January 8, 2022

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The following is from forum moderator Vince Elie:

Approximately 17 people participated in the Chelsea Community Forum (CCF) via Zoom on January 8th. Our recorded discussion can be found at the following link: https://us02web.zoom.us/rec/share/PGdghjkG3V-X5peO9NmmCr6i2xJzsGz32QjrS…

Passcode: 2f8e#0Y!

All data provided for this summary was as of January 7th, 2022.

Dr. Alon Weizer and Ms. Jaclyn Klein from St. Joseph Mercy Chelsea participated. They shared their experiences and the hospital staff’s experiences with the care of COVID-19 patients. Dr. Weizer reported that the last 3 months has felt like the film “Ground Hog Day.” He noted that the ER is experiencing about 90-100 visits (of any type) per day, involving significantly sicker patients and there were more than 30 COVID-19 affected individuals admitted in early December 2021 and as of Friday January 7th, 2022, there were 24 COVID-19 impacted patients admitted to the hospital. Around 70 percent of the admitted COVID-19 patients were unvaccinated. The remaining 30 percent that were admitted were either partially or fully vaccinated and among these 30 percent, most suffered from other underlying medical conditions such as high blood pressure, respiratory failure, diabetes, pneumonia, renal failure, COPD, etc.

It was noted because of the high patient census in late November and early December, the hospital postponed some surgeries and deferred admissions for Inpatient Rehab or other care. The hospital continually evaluates bed capacity and its ability to admit patient transfers.

Dr. Weizer noted that the hospital has 6 ICU beds. As planned, the hospital created additional ICU beds by converting beds from Atrium East. At times during the past few months, the ICU and 24 bed Atrium East have been completely filled with COVID-19 patients, and more were cared for in Atrium West, another 24-bed unit.

The nursing director and medical staff leadership continue to work hard and manage COVID-19, in addition to the usual cases that are admitted to the hospital.

Omicron patients are typically not as sick but are more easily able to transmit the disease and because of Omicron’s higher transmissibility, a greater number of staff are out ill with the Omicron variant. There is good news. The Omicron variant’s peak, based on South Africa data, is expected towards the end of January or early February. Also, the rate of full vaccination and boosters is rather good in the Chelsea area. There are more therapies available, such as 2 new oral antiviral medications, and IV monoclonal antibodies. The difficulty with the oral medications; their short supply. Dr. Weizer noted that more community testing supplies would be helpful. The in-home tests are, if used correctly, helpful, too. If you are without symptoms and the test is negative, this is a good indicator of no disease. If you have symptoms of COVID-19 or a “cold” and the test is negative, then you should re-test. There should be more tests available late January. If you have had COVID-19, regardless of the strain, the natural immunity alone is unlikely to provide as much protection as natural immunity plus the full vaccination series with the booster. There is work being undertaken on a broad Coronavirus vaccine and if successful, may be helpful in diminishing all Coronavirus infections.

Routine antibody testing is unlikely to provide any useful information, unless the person is immune-compromised, or elderly.

There was discussion regarding the tendency of viruses to become less virulent or weaker as they become more transmissible, thus becoming endemic to the population.

Dr. Weizer notes that the hospital was prepared for this current wave of the Omicron.

Vaccinations with boosters are protective, as are masks and physical distancing. Staying home when ill is helpful in preventing the transmission of COVID-19 viruses, and other viral and bacterial mediated diseases. Others noted that staying home can be difficult if one needs the income work provides. Some noted that societal attitudes about staying home from work when ill are moving towards more acceptance of this action.

When asked about nursing shortages, Dr. Weizer replied that the nursing shortages predated the COVID-19 crises. The presence of COVID-19 worsened this situation leading to many nurses retiring, some leaving the profession prior to retirement age, burnout of the remaining staff worsened as more staff left the nursing profession. As of January 7th, there were more than 40 St. Joseph Mercy Chelsea staff on quarantine. Some nurses have also experienced work-place violence from angry patients and their families. Some nurses became traveling nurses as the pay was significantly higher. St. Joe’s has contracted with traveling nurses at a significant impact on the hospital’s budget. Dr. Weizer noted that these shortages transcend nurses and include, nursing assistants, housekeepers, respiratory therapists, and others involved with patient care. The staff members that have remained have shared that an increase in their wages and salary would not be rejected, but it would not stem the rising tide of staff departures.

Dr. Weizer and Ms. Klein noted the following items:

A) The hospital visitor policy has not changed. We allow one to two visitors for non-COVID inpatients, and no visitors are allowed for COVID patients unless there are special circumstances, such as end of life.

B) Our Incident Command team reports to the state of Michigan our COVID numbers, staffing numbers and gaps every day. The State and Federal Government use that data to distribute surge team resources. To date, none of the St. Joe’s hospitals have been granted extra resources. A surge team was allocated to Trinity Health hospital Mercy Health Muskegon.

To close, both Dr. Weizer and Ms. Klein expressed their gratitude to the health care team in their professionalism, dedication, and caring for patients, especially during the COVID-19 Pandemic. They also expressed their appreciation to the community for their support. If any community members would like to augment their support, please contact Ms. Klein at: 734-593-5377 or Jaclyn.Klein@stjoeshealth.org.

The next Chelsea Community Forum, via Zoom, is scheduled for February 12th at 9 AM.

The CCF is open to all with an interest in the affairs of the Chelsea School District area and meets the 2nd Saturday of every month at 9:00 AM, currently on Zoom. The meeting link can be found on the Forum’s website: https://sites.google.com/site/chelseamiforum/home.

The Forum’s activity is advertised through the Chelsea Update, on “Chelsea Residents in the Know” Facebook’s page, and if you would like to be on the e-mail contact list, please provide your e-mail address at the Forum’s website: https://sites.google.com/site/chelseamiforum/home

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