Patients wait hours for emergency care as Michigan hospitals overwhelmed by COVID-19

Posted at 5:44 PM, Dec 30, 2021

DETROIT (WXYZ) — Hospitals around metro Detroit are warning the community that the pandemic has created an emergency for emergency rooms.

Henry Ford Hospital shared a video diary made by Dr. Jayna Gardner-Gray, a critical care and emergency medicine physician at Henry Ford Hospital. In it she describes a brutal workload, long waits for emergency care, a lack of hospital beds, and an overwhelming amount of unvaccinated patients fighting for their lives.

Henry Ford Hospital's Dr. Jayna Gardner-Gray shares video diary from ER

“Today is not one of the better days. There are a lot of patients on ventilators. Long wait times in our emergency department,” said Dr. Jayna Gardner-Gray.

It is the new reality for emergency departments in a community where short waits were advertised.

The Detroit Medical Center used to advertise that it had a 29 minute guarantee in its emergency rooms in pre-pandemic times. The hospital system developed processes to get patients care fast, but the story is the same.

“Things that were very routine before, we would see them in 29 minutes before very easily. They are waiting hours and hours and hours,” said Dr. Robert Klever, who is the Medical Director of DMC Detroit Receiving Emergency Department.

Dr. Klever says when it is a matter of life and death, such as a heart attack, stroke, or severe injury, you will be seen right away. When it comes to non-life threatening emergencies, such as a need for stitches, broken bones, or pain, it is not unusual lately to wait hours, even six hours or more at times.

Why is this? Dr. Klever says COVID patients are not not leaving the hospital, so beds are full.

“With Asthma or COPD, even if we had to put you on a ventilator, two or three days and then we are sending you home. With COVID, you are talking two to four weeks, if you are lucky enough to get out. And unfortunately, especially among the unvaccinated we are seeing a pretty high mortality rate still,” said Dr. Klever.

Dr. Klever says it is like watching people wait in line at Cedar Point. If half the people on the Steel Vengeance roller coaster just keep riding, the line gets longer.

“If half the roller coaster doesn’t get off, your wait gets a lot longer. So, we do have patients that are waiting in the ED days for a bed,” he explains.

This means ER nurses are caring for patients that should be in inpatient units, when they should be caring for new emergency patients. And it is happening in emergency rooms across the metro area.

Hospitals around metro Detroit say what they are experiencing in their emergency rooms is unsustainable and dangerous. They are sharing what is happening, knowing that right now COVID-19 cases are increasing. They are asking the public to take precautions and get vaccinated.

A majority of patients hospitalized are unvaccinated. Booster shots decrease the risk you will need hospital or emergency care even more.

Additional Coronavirus information and resources:

View a global coronavirus tracker with data from Johns Hopkins University.

See complete coverage on our Coronavirus Continuing Coverage page.

Visit our The Rebound Detroit, a place where we are working to help people impacted financially from the coronavirus. We have all the information on everything available to help you through this crisis and how to access it.