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Major Upper Peninsula hospital over capacity, director says

Rural Insights
War Memorial Hospital in Ste. Saint Marie, Mich., says its emergency department is over capacity and some patients will likely need to wait for care.

One of the Upper Peninsula’s largest hospitals is over capacity, and the emergency department chief said Thursday that some patients will have to wait for care.

Dr. Kyle Raycraft, the medical director of the emergency department at War Memorial Hospital in Sault Ste. Marie, said the hospital will continue to see and evaluate patients, but “there could be a prolonged wait time … as there is a shortage of available beds.”

War Memorial is the second-largest hospital in the U.P., with a total of 82 beds.

It’s also the only hospital with intensive care beds in a vast swath of the eastern side of the peninsula. As a result, it’s been handling some COVID-19 cases from the LMAS District Health Department, a four-county health district just to the west, where COVID-19 cases have spiked in recent weeks and there are no ICU beds available.

COVID-19 cases in Chippewa County, where War Memorial Hospital is located, have just about doubled in the last 6 weeks, according to data from the state health department.

The most recent state data on hospital capacity show the hospital still has some open beds, but War Memorial says staffing has been a problem also.

“While we may have a physical bed available we can only fill the number of beds that we have staff available to care for,” a spokesperson said.

Brett joined WCMU in February, 2021, as a general assignment reporter. He was previously the health reporter at WXXI Public Broadcasting in Rochester, N.Y., and has filed stories for National Public Radio, IEEE Spectrum, The Village Voice and other outlets.