By MainGate Staff
As COVID-19 has spread across the state, HFHS’s patient load has increased, especially at its academic medical center in downtown Detroit. When the virus first struck, HFHS lacked testing kits. “Testing was limited at that point to what the CDC was doing. Hospitals did not have access to the [protocols] they needed,” says Dr. Munkarah. Protocols are viral taxonomies from which tests can be built.
Dr. Munkarah explains that the state initially had a monopoly on testing, but as the numbers increased, the CDC asked non-state labs to increase testing capacity: “We needed the [protocols] from the CDC to create our tests, then they needed to be validated according to FDA protocols. We became one of the first hospitals to provide testing.”
As of late April, HFHS can perform up to 1,500 tests daily. “In the past couple of days, we’ve provided close to 500 tests. We’ve performed 13,000 tests since the outbreak,” the first COVID-19 patients having arrived at HFHS during the second week of March. The test itself involves swabbing deep inside the sinus cavity. “People need to be trained to do that and on correctly wearing personal protective equipment.”
“We’ve had to surge our capacity, to convert areas of the hospitals to COVID-19 areas, and to surge our ICU beds by 20 percent,” Munkarah says. HFHS also had to rely on anesthesia machines as ventilators for a time while awaiting a new shipment.
“The number of non-COVID-19 ER patients is down significantly,” Dr. Munkarah says, as would-be patients fear contracting the virus at hospitals. “Now we’re trying to educate the community, to let them know that you should not ignore your health. Come in if you need to.”
“We have seen a gradual but slow decrease in cases. We are at half our peak. We’re not coming down fast, but slowly and consistently. We’re seeing the light at the end of the tunnel.”
Munkarah predicts that we won’t see a vaccine for another 12 to 18 months due to the rigorous testing any vaccine would have to undergo. As the surge subsides, the doctor contemplates the next big hurdle, “We hope the reopening of the economy happens in a way that protects the community.”