Should local hospitals become so overwhelmed with coronavirus patients that there are not enough beds for them, Muskegon Community College (MCC) will house overflow patients in its Health and Wellness Center.
College officials announced Friday, March 27, that they are partnering with the state and Mercy Health to use its 52,000-square-foot center as an overflow site in the case that hospital space needs to be freed up during an influx of COVID-19 cases.
“Our mission at Muskegon Community College is to build stronger communities and improve lives,” MCC President Dale Nesbary said in a press release. “In these difficult days, we are thankful that our college can help those on the front lines in mitigating COVID-19’s impact on our community and state.”
The decision to use the college space for overflow patients came after David Ogren, the emergency management coordinator at Mercy Health, approached MCC about the possibility of using the Health and Wellness Center as part of the state Department of Health and Human Services Region 6 plan to address COVID-19.
COVID-19 is a respiratory disease that can cause, among other symptoms, a fever, dry cough and shortness of breath; it is 10 times more fatal than the flu, according to Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
Because COVID-19 is a new disease and is highly contagious, it presents a slew of issues for a world fighting to contain the global pandemic: humans have not built up an immunity to it, there is no vaccine for it yet, and its symptoms often don’t present themselves until two to 14 days after being exposed to the virus—which potentially allows a carrier of the disease to expose it to others without realizing they are doing so. All of these factors allow for the exponential growth of the number of COVID-19 cases. Such an explosion of cases then overwhelms health care systems, which we’ve seen occur in places like Italy, New York City and Detroit.
Muskegon County has six confirmed cases of COVID-19, and two men have died. Health officials said they are planning for an influx of patients battling the coronavirus.
The Health and Wellness Center, which is located on its main campus at 221 S. Quarterline Rd., has been unoccupied since March 19, when MCC suspended all on-site operations as part of the state’s efforts to mitigate the coronavirus. In response to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s stay-at-home executive order issued earlier this week, the college will not hold any in-person classes or events through May 3. It has also postponed its commencement ceremony that had been scheduled for May 6.
Inside MCC’s center, there is a large gymnasium where hospital beds can go. The venue is also home to the college’s Nursing and Respiratory Therapy Simulation Center, which includes four simulation labs and debriefing rooms. The space too includes MCC’s Medical Assistant Program, which includes three exam rooms, three blood draw stations, and a laboratory station.
Plus, the center houses the Mercy Health Physician Partners Quarterline Family Medicine, a partnership between MCC, Mercy Health Muskegon, and Grand Valley State University. The 4,000-square-foot primary clinic includes eight exam rooms, a treatment room, and a lab for the venue’s three nurse practitioners and their support staff.
Nesbary noted that state and local funding helped to build MCC’s Health and Wellness Center, which opened in November 2018, to educate and train tomorrow’s health professionals.
“It’s fitting that today’s health professionals, too, can tap into the center’s many features to battle one of the greatest health challenges of our lifetime,” Nesbary said in press release.
In addition to the physical space, MCC will provide custodial, maintenance and security support. Contractually, the state and Mercy Health can use the Health and Wellness Center through May 27.