West Michigan ER numbers lower than usual

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Medical professionals continue to urge people to seek medical attention if they’re experiencing health problems as emergency room visits trend lower than normal for area hospitals. 

In July, the state reported a big spike in out-of-hospital deaths during the first two months of the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to data from March 2020 to May 2020, out-of-hospital deaths were up 13% in Kent County, 17% in Kalamazoo County, 45% in Muskegon County and 61% in Ottawa County.

Data from more recent months is not yet available, but visits to the ER remain lower than usual for some hospitals.

News 8 received the following data from area health systems:

  • Bronson Methodist Hospital: ER visits down 18% year to date compared to last year
  • Metro Health Hospital: ER visits down 27% from March through July compared to last year
  • Mercy Health Saint Mary’s and Muskegon Hospitals: ER visits down 11 to 12% compared to normal
  • Spectrum Health Butterworth Hospital: ER visits down 7 to 8% compared to normal

“Of the patients that are coming in, they are a little bit sicker and have a higher chance of getting admitted than before COVID,” Dr. Craig Bilbrey told News 8. 

Bilbrey is the associate medical director for Spectrum Health Butterworth Hospital’s emergency department. Their department has experienced the statewide trend that’s worrying doctors.

“I saw multiple patients present with delayed chest pain that had completed heart attacks that missed any chance of intervention. Others that hadn’t had their diabetes medications in a few weeks and had to get admitted because they were critically ill because they didn’t have their meds,” Bilbrey said. “I see less of that now.”

Ascension Borgess Hospital did not provide specific numbers but said its Michigan hospitals remain equipped to protect patients from COVID-19 exposure. 

The focus on conveying that safety message and reminder that hospitals are your best option if you need immediate medical attention is something all health systems are working to share right now.

“I think we’re doing a good job relating to the public that it’s safe to come in and we are ready and we have capacity and we’re the safety net for the community,” Bilbrey added.