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Fourth federal medical team heads for Michigan to help overburdened hospital workers

The new coronavirus has yet to sicken American health workers, as it has in China. But deaths of hospital workers in Asia have heightened scrutiny of the U.S. health care system's ability to protect people on the front line.
The new coronavirus has yet to sicken American health workers, as it has in China. But deaths of hospital workers in Asia have heightened scrutiny of the U.S. health care system's ability to protect people on the front line.

The federal government is sending a fourth medical team to Michigan for a month at the request of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.

The 17-person team will give support to Mercy Health Muskegon, including helping with monoclonal antibody treatments.

The team will start treating patients at the end of December.

The relief comes in the midst of the fourth surge in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations.

"COVID-19 has put our frontline staff under the most extreme conditions," said Gary Allore, president of Mercy Health Muskegon.

"It's been very trying for nurses over the last year just with the amount of death they've seen, and this COVID has taken a toll on staff," Allore said.

"Because of our full house and staffing concerns, we have a lot of staff taking on higher patient loads than what is a normal patient load for any nurse or any physician," said Allore.

The burden is unsustainable, he said, and it's causing delayed care for non-emergency in-patient cases.

Allore said about 70% to 75% of the COVID patients in Mercy Health Muskegon are unvaccinated, as are more than 90% of the patients in the intensive care units.

Whitmer thanked the federal government "for providing much needed relief to Michigan's hospitals and health care personnel."

She called on Michiganders to take steps to reduce the strain COVID has placed on the state's hospital systems.

"First, get vaccinated and if you are eligible, get your booster, to help keep you out of the hospital," said Whitmer in a press release. "If you plan on traveling for the holidays or attending an indoor gathering, please get tested beforehand and stay home if you're sick."

State health officials have also repeatedly urged Michiganders to wear a mask in public indoor settings regardless of vaccination status.

Three federal medical teams are already in Michigan and will be extended for another 30 days, according to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.

They are at Beaumont Hospital - Dearborn, Spectrum Health in Grand Rapids, and Covenant Health Care in Saginaw.

Copyright 2021 Michigan Radio

Virginia Gordan has been a part-time reporter at Michigan Radio since fall 2013. She has a general beat covering news topics from across the state.