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Henry Ford Health System temporarily closes 120 inpatient beds because of staffing challenges

Detroit Free Press logo Detroit Free Press 9/13/2021 Christina Hall, Detroit Free Press
a road with a building in the background: Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit. © Rodney Coleman-Robinson, Detroit Free Press Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit.

Faced with the same crippling worker shortages experienced by businesses across Michigan and the nation, Henry Ford Health System closed 120 inpatient beds systemwide because of staffing challenges.

That number is less than 10% of Henry Ford Health's total beds, officials said Monday.

They also announced that more than 98% of their 33,000 employees will have complied with the health system's COVID-19 vaccine mandate by having gotten both doses of vaccine; at least their first dose and have scheduled their second, or by having approved medical or religious exemptions.

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"The emergency departments have been very, very busy, as well as our hospitals," said Dr. Adnan Munkarah, executive vice president and chief clinical officer at Henry Ford Health. "Unfortunately, our health care system, as well as other health care systems across the region, state and nation, are facing unprecedented staffing challenges, only exacerbated by this pandemic. Because of those challenges, we've had to temporarily close 120 of our inpatient beds across the health system."

a man wearing glasses: Dr. Adnan Munkarah, Henry Ford Health System's executive vice president and chief clinical officer. © Ray Manning/Henry Ford Health System Dr. Adnan Munkarah, Henry Ford Health System's executive vice president and chief clinical officer.

"We are flexing our bed capacity to maintain our full spectrum of services across all health systems," he said, urging patients not to delay emergent or critical medical situations.

Munkarah said most of the bed closures are in the Detroit and Jackson campuses, in general practice units and a few intensive care beds.

"We're not curtailing any services," he said, adding this will help have the most appropriate staffing to provide the most intensive care possible.

More: Henry Ford Health System workers sue in federal court to stop COVID-19 vaccine mandate

More: Michigan hospital staffing shortage nears crisis point as COVID-19 patients rise

Munkarah said people may experience delays in the emergency department, possibly staying more than six hours to be admitted to a bed because of the shortage. Officials said they have expanded relationships with staffing agencies to try to bring in additional staff and held job fairs to hire more people.

Currently there are 129 patients with confirmed COVID-19 infections across the five-hospital system and another five with suspected COVID-19 awaiting test results, Munkarah said.

Some 79% of those currently hospitalized with the virus are unvaccinated and another 10.8% are between their first and second doses of vaccine, Munkarah said. Only 10% of those hospitalized have been fully vaccinated, he said, and they have less severe illness than the hospitalized patients who are unvaccinated.

He said test positivity rate is fluctuating between 9% and 11%, which is high compared to a couple of months ago. Munkarah reiterated what federal health officials have been saying about national trends: "What you are seeing consistently now is this is a pandemic of the unvaccinated."


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Statewide, he said, infections are up 22% in the past two weeks and hospitalizations are up 15%. He said data in new studies, conducted while the delta variant has been circulating, "is becoming more and more solid on vaccinations and vaccines are effective."

In regard to the health system mandating COVID-19 vaccines for all of its employees, volunteers and contractors by its self-imposed Sept. 10 deadline, Munkarah said: "It is the responsible thing to do."

More: Henry Ford Health System workers drop COVID-19 vaccine mandate lawsuit

More: Biden's vaccine mandate likely to hold up to legal challenges, health law experts say

Bob Riney, the system's COO and president of health care operations, said when the health system became the first in Michigan to announce in June that it would mandate COVID-19 vaccinations for its workers, it had a 68% vaccination rate.

He said though the Friday deadline passed "no one is being terminated."

Riney said those who have not been vaccinated or started the process face an unpaid, three-week suspension. They have until Oct. 1 to change their mind. If they receive their first dose before Oct. 1, they can immediately return to work, he said.

Riney said workers who are not vaccinated by Oct. 1 will "voluntarily resign," but will be eligible for rehire if they get vaccinated after that date.

a man wearing a suit and tie: Bob Riney, chief operating officer, Henry Ford Health System © Henry Ford Health System Bob Riney, chief operating officer, Henry Ford Health System

If they get rehired, he said, "every effort would be made to bring them back into their existing position."

Riney said if someone refuses to resign and they don't comply, "we would have to terminate their employment."

He said that he believes the U.S. Food and Drug Administration granting full approval of the Pfizer two-dose vaccine last month "tipped the scales for some team members who were on the fence."

More: Pfizer-BioNTech's COVID-19 vaccine gets FDA's full approval: What it means for Michigan

More: Michigan reports 6,093 new COVID-19 cases, 29 deaths over 3-day period

Last week, more than 50 employees of the health system who challenged the vaccine mandate filed a federal lawsuit. They withdrew the lawsuit hours before a motion hearing was set Friday.

It was dropped one day after President Joe Biden announced sweeping federal vaccine requirements that are to affect as many as 100 million U.S. workers, including those employed by health care facilities that receive Medicare and Medicaid funding such as Henry Ford Health System.

Staff writer Kristen Jordan Shamus contributed to this report.

Contact Christina Hall: chall@freepress.com. Follow her on Twitter: @challreporter.

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This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Henry Ford Health System temporarily closes 120 inpatient beds because of staffing challenges

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