Federal Medical Team to Help Sparrow with Covid Staffing

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The federal government is sending a “medical team” of up to 25 people to support the healthcare workers at Sparrow Hospital in Lansing, according to a press release from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS).

The team will begin work on Feb. 7, making Sparrow the sixth hospital in Michigan to receive additional federal staffing assistance. The team will support Sparrow for 30 days. Governor Gretchen Whitmer made the request to the federal government which was granted today, according to the release. 

Both Whitmer and Elizabeth Hertel, Michigan Department of Health and Human Services director, are quoted in the release asking Michiganders to support healthcare workers by getting vaccinated and boosted, staying home when sick, ordering at-home Covid tests through the United States Postal Service, and masking in indoor public settings.

James F. Dover, Sparrow Health System president and CEO thanked Sparrow workers for “tirelessly protecting the community since this pandemic began.” He also thanked Whitmer and U.S. Representative Elissa Slotkin — whose district includes Lansing — for advocating for this support.

MDHHS also advised Michiganders to “carefully consider” where they go to receive medical attention — with hospitals currently dealing with large Covid caseloads, a primary care office or urgent care might be better suited.

“A primary care office, virtual visit or urgent care may be the best choice as hospital and emergency departments are experiencing high demand,” read the press release. “However, for emergency conditions such as stroke symptoms, chest pain, difficulty breathing, significant injury or uncontrolled bleeding, Michiganders should still seek emergency care.”

The announcement comes as Ingham County faces some of the highest daily case counts thus far in the pandemic. During the week spanning from Jan. 11-18 — the most recent data available from the Ingham County Health Department — 4,127 new cases were reported and 18 new deaths. The County also reported that 223 individuals were hospitalized between Sparrow Lansing and McLaren Greater Lansing, including 34 patients in intensive care units and 22 on ventilators.

During the pandemic, Sparrow has struggled with staffing shortages throughout its health care system. In December 2020, Sparrow reported approximately 1,000 vacancies across its facilities. 

In November 2021, as the Professional Employees Council of Sparrow Hospital (PECSH-MNA) – the union that represents 53 classifications of workers, including nurses, pharmacists, and laboratory scientists – bargained with hospital administration for a new contract, union leaders and at least one employee voiced concerns regarding the effects shortages were having on patient treatment. 

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