Spectrum Health moves beds, equipment into CHS as contingency during COVID-19 pandemic

three women standing in a lab; including governor, President Mantella and Spectrum Health CEO
From left are Tina Freese Decker, president and CEO of Spectrum Health, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and President Philomena V. Mantella standing in a room in the Cook-DeVos Center for Health Sciences.
Image credit - Valerie Wojciechowski
governor answering questions to video camera
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer answers questions while on a tour of CHS.
Image credit - Valerie Wojciechowski
woman unpacking linens
A Spectrum Health employee unpacks linens.
Image credit - Valerie Wojciechowski
people unpack boxes in a hallway
Spectrum Health employees unpack equipment in CHS.
Image credit - Valerie Wojciechowski

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer toured the Cook-DeVos Center for Health Sciences March 26, as it may become an alternative care site for Spectrum Health if needed during the COVID-19 pandemic. CHS would be used to treat patients without the virus but in need of low-acuity medical attention.

Preparations for the site have begun. CHS is located on GVSU's Health Campus, across from Spectrum Health's Butterworth Hospital on Michigan Street, the Medical Mile in downtown Grand Rapids. Leaders from Spectrum Health said there is space in the building to accommodate up to 250 hospital beds, if needed.

Whitmer called the agreement between Spectrum Health and Grand Valley an "all hands-on-deck strategy" as she continued to press the need for social distancing, hand washing and staying home to help stop the spread of the virus.

"This is a challenge unlike anything we have ever seen before. We have incredible talent around the state in our health care systems and our communities," Whitmer said. "This partnership is something that is unique and needs to be replicated to become the rule, not the exception."

Whitmer joined President Philomena V. Mantella and Tina Freese Decker, president and CEO of Spectrum Health, on the tour of CHS.

Mantella said she is proud of the university and its leaders to meet the potential needs of community residents this way.

"It makes me so full of pride and so full of compassion for those who are suffering, and ready to do whatever we can to step in and lean into this problem so we can solve it together," Mantella said.

Spectrum Health employees spent the day practicing an expansion plan into CHS if more hospital capacity is necessary. Freese Decker said the hospital system remains committed to preparing and finding solutions to ensure the health of the community, adding this contingency agreement "embodies the West Michigan culture" of banding together.

Freese Decker said she and administrators studied hospital models in other states that are now near or over capacity with COVID-19 patients and decided to take action and begin more drills at CHS.

“When we're at that capacity, we will need to expand to other sites," Freese Decker said. "We are appreciative of community members, students and others who are coming together with some clinical skills to help us staff this, because we will need everyone to be engaged in this process."

Jean Nagelkerk, vice provost for health, said Grand Valley and Spectrum Health established an agreement in 2005, offering CHS as an alternative care site.

"Grand Valley’s partnership with Spectrum Health is an example of what can come from public-private endeavors that benefit the public good," Nagelkerk said. "We have held mock disaster drills to prepare for this arrangement if called upon, and I am grateful to Grand Valley faculty and staff members who made this possible."

Katie Branch, director of simulation, said Spectrum Health will occupy lab and classroom space within CHS. Branch also said past drills were needed on a practical level but did not address the emotions of actually preparing the space as a possible alternative care site.

"It is especially poignant to everyone involved," Branch said. "It gives us all pause to have such a hands-on role in preparing to meet the potential health care needs of our community during this critical time. The Health Campus was built on a foundation of strong community partnerships, people and organizations committed to working together to meet the health care needs of our community."



Sign up and receive the latest Grand Valley headlines delivered to your email inbox each morning.