‘Extremely busy’ ICU at UPHS-Marquette handles high trauma volume, coronavirus patients

CEO Gar Atchison says “everyone just needs to go back to being as safe and careful as they can.”
‘Extremely busy’ ICU at UPHS-Marquette handles high trauma volume, coronavirus patients
Published: Oct. 16, 2020 at 1:39 PM EDT
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MARQUETTE, Mich. (WLUC) - The combination of increasing coronavirus patients and a high volume of trauma cases has created an extremely busy intensive care unit at UP Health System-Marquette, CEO Gar Atchison said Friday morning.

State health department data last updated Thursday afternoon showed UP Health System hospitals have 18 coronavirus patients and five in the ICU. UPHS-Marquette has 24 ICU beds.

Below is a transcript of TV6′s Andrew LaCombe’s interview with Atchison.

AL: "First, Gar, if you will, paint a picture and describe what this week has looked like in your ICU and emergency department for patients and staff. "

GA: “It’s been a busy week here at the hospital, both in the emergency room, really house wide, we’ve had a very high census. The ICUs have been extremely busy. It’s kind of a trend we’ve seen most of the summer, although a little bit more so right now than than earlier.”

AL: "How is the increase in COVID cases in the U.P. affected other patients who need care in the ICU or emergency department?

GA: “We continue to, as the regional trauma center, continue to serve the needs of the people who require our services. This week, we seem to be getting a lot of trauma patients in from across the U.P. We are able to handle the volume of the trauma and the addition of having some of the COVID patients, but we are again, extremely busy. The ICU is very busy.”

AL: “Across the country, we’ve heard that it can be tough to predict which people will need to be hospitalized after contracting the virus. What can you tell us in general terms about the type of coronavirus patients you’re seeing right now? Their ages, conditions and the level of care that they’re needing?”

GA: “This continues to evolve. You know, early on, we were seeing a lot of patients that were quite ill, requiring ICU care, requiring ventilation. And then as we sort of went through the summer months, we started seeing patients that weren’t nearly as sick, weren’t getting in the ICU. So now we’re seeing sort of a mixed bag of that. We’re seeing some of the patients who require maybe step-down level care. But we are now having patients that are requiring ICU care. It’s still our goal to keep patients off a ventilator that have COVID. But we do have a few that have progressed to the vent. The age, and the hospital currently ranges from a low of 30 to a high of 90 of patients who are here with COVID positive results.”

AL: “And last time we talked, it sounded like more patients were staying in their local hospitals, you weren’t seeing as many COVID transfers. Is that still holding true right now?”

GA: "Throughout the U.P., the hospitals are doing a great job. We have a lot of contact, still talk weekly. Our medical staffs are more engaged in talking. With the amount of hospitalizations that there are in the U.P., we this time around need the other hospitals to keep some of the lower level patients. The medical staffs have gotten together and really talked through some guidelines of what condition of a patient should be sent here, where the last time around, we pretty much were able to take everything. A lot of the hospitals have COVID patients right now and are doing a great job taking care of them.”

AL: “You’ve just enhanced visitor restrictions. Are there changes for elective procedures right now?”

GA: “We changed the visitor restrictions, just out of an abundance of caution, due to the prevalence that we’re seeing in the community, and the positivity rate increase that we’ve seen in our testing centers. So we’ve limited it now to one visitor for inpatient only, and asking if you’re here for an outpatient procedure, that if at all possible, you’d come alone unless your person is a caregiver or you’re a minor. So that’s just caused us to reduce the visitors. We have this week, due to the ICU volume, gotten with the medical staff, and collaboratively made the decision to take a couple week pause on elective procedures that were likely to require an ICU bed. So we’ve been moving some cases off and pushed them out a couple of weeks hoping we can get over this hump of ICU patients.”

AL: “Back in March and April, we saw a lot of community support for our frontline workers. How do we reinvigorate that spirit now?”

GA: “Yeah, thank you for asking, Andrew. That’s a great question. And certainly something I was talking about with my board yesterday when I was giving them an update. The community really rallied around the staff before and, you know, it’s ironic now because so much has changed, and we’ve all been through so much that we’re seeing two to three times as many patients on a daily basis as we did back in March, April and May. I think we’ve just all gotten a little used to COVID. And I think the staff still does appreciate getting a nice note from the community because we’re tired. The staff’s tired here in the hospital.”

AL: “And so Gar, as people make plans and choices for this coming weekend, what do you hope they consider?”

GA: “Yeah, once again, we really have to be mindful. While the hospital is a very safe place to come, because while you’re here, everyone is in masks and PPE, and we’re doing the best we can to sanitize the place continuously, it’s what’s going on out in the public that is going to decide how we’re able to maintain ourselves here at the hospital. So, again, masking, hand washing, social distancing, avoiding large crowds. A lot of the outbreaks we’re seeing in Marquette are for multi-generational events - going to birthday parties, weddings, funerals - and we just need to be mindful that coronavirus is definitely here in Marquette. The numbers are increasing at a really alarming rate and everyone just needs to go back to being as safe and careful as they can.”

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