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Beaumont sidelines one hospital site as coronavirus surge stalls

In a nod to a slowdown in the surge of coronavirus in southeast Michigan — one that might be short-lived — the state’s largest health system has sidelined one of its eight hospitals.

Beaumont Hospital, Wayne, is on standby “as a reserve COVID-19 hospital.”

Staff will be shifted to other places in the health system while the hospital in Wayne is put on a temporary pause, said Beaumont spokesman Mark Geary.

“There are people in the community and staff who look at this and ask, ‘Are we closing down Wayne forever?’ ” Geary said. “We’re not closing Wayne permanently. We are saying it’s temporarily going to be a reserve hospital. It’s in a holding pattern. … What we are saying is that it’s temporarily paused,” he said.

The hospital system had been battling rumors for days as employees were reassigned to work at other hospitals and patients were transferred out of the Wayne campus.

On Tuesday evening, Beaumont posted a message to its Facebook page: “We need to be clear,” it read. “We are not closing any of our acute care campuses, including Beaumont, Wayne.”

The message echoed one posted days earlier. In it, Beaumont said it continues to face a shortage of staff while it cares for a high number of severely ill people, but the patient surge appears to have abated.

Wayne will remain at the ready for an overflow of COVID-19 patients because “we don’t know what the future holds in this pandemic and there could still be a surge of COVID-19 patients.”

Some health and political leaders have cautiously noted a slowdown in the surge of cases in recent days, and Beaumont is not the first to readjust its plans after a March ramp-up to the unknown.

A field hospital planned at the Suburban Collection Showplace convention center in Novi will open with just 250 beds, less than a quarter of what it could accommodate, Michelle Grinnell, spokesperson for the Michigan Economic Development Corp., said Saturday. A day earlier, Michigan Medicine at the University of Michigan revealed it would not open its field hospital as planned because of a slowdown in the rise in COVID-19 cases across Michigan.

And on Tuesday, the 1,000-bed Detroit field hospital at the TCF Center was treating just eight patients.

Officials at both MEDC and Michigan Medicine said plans could change quickly to accommodate another surge in patients, if need be.

Still, COVID remains a deadly threat, especially in metro Detroit.

The state reported 1,366 new cases and 166 new deaths as of Tuesday morning, driving the total numbers to 27,001 confirmed cases and 1,768 confirmed deaths, according to the state Department of Health and Human Services.

Metro Detroit’s three counties still make up 80 percent of the state’s cases.

But the surge seems to have stalled, likely as a result of severe restrictions on school, work and any non-essential travel. That has prompted Beaumont to reassess staffing and space.

““Initially, we thought there was a big surge of patients coming,” Geary said, noting the rush to open the Detroit and Novi field hospitals. 

“We looked at the situation and said, ‘Where are we going to put all of our patients when there’s a surge? Wayne was identified as a site that could help us balance the load of patients between our hospitals to help manage a surge.”

Beaumont Health announced March 26 it would shut down the emergency center and obstetrics unit at the hospital in Wayne to convert it into a center specifically for COVID-19 patients.

“But … we didn’t have the giant surge like they’ve seen in New York and other places. We haven’t had as many people, as many patients as some models predicted,” Geary said.

“We also don’t know about the what-ifs — what if the stay-at-home order lifts, and everybody goes back to their lives, and we have (COVID-19 cases) skyrocket? So now, Wayne will serve as a reserve hospital so if we have a surge, we have a spot that is ready to go.”


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