‘Rally Around Our Healthcare Workers’

April 08, 2021
Bob Riney and Dr. Munkarah

DETROIT (April 8, 2021) – Amid surging COVID-19 hospitalizations not seen since the outset of the pandemic and weary healthcare workers, Henry Ford Health System senior leaders made a public plea for people to get vaccinated and adhere to mask wearing and other proven safety measures to curb the spread of infections.

Bob Riney, President of Healthcare Operations and Chief Operating Officer, and Adnan Munkarah, M.D., Executive Vice President and Chief Clinical Officer, said the accelerating pace of new cases and hospitalizations are deeply worrisome and urged the public to rally behind healthcare workers who are feeling the brunt of caring for patients under conditions never seen before for more than a year now. If hospitalizations aren’t slowed, they said, “we may not frankly have enough staff to care for patients.”

“During the spring surge, we saw the community rally behind healthcare workers and hospitals in so many ways. The energy around helping support our healthcare heroes was palpable. We need for that energy to happen again and in a very different way,” Riney said during remarks at a news briefing Thursday.


“So today, I’m making a call to action,” Riney continued. “Our healthcare workers are exhausted. They’re not just tired, they’re exhausted. Day after day, night after night, throughout this pandemic, they’ve given their absolute all, caring for patients under conditions that we have never seen in our lifetime. They need our support once again as we ask them to continue this journey and deal with this surge.”

Riney said the public’s non-compliance with safety measures like mask wearing and social distancing “are giving this virus new life and causing a surge of hospitalizations and cases.” He said healthcare workers “need us to work together to bring this pandemic to a controllable level.”

“Before anyone chooses to go out in public without their mask, we’re asking you to stop and think about the nurses, doctors, respiratory therapists and other medical professionals who took care of a loved one, friend, neighbor or work colleague that you lost to COVID," Riney said.

“Before you choose to go to a large gathering with no social distancing, we’re asking you to stop and think about the exhausted nurses, doctors, therapists and other medical professionals in the Emergency Department and the ICUs who cared for a loved one, friend, neighbor or colleague who recovered from COVID.

“And for those who are still hesitant to get vaccinated, we’re asking you to stop and think about those very same nurses, doctors, housekeepers and other healthcare team members who are working 24/7 to care for people getting sick from COVID while determined to keep all other clinical services open and care for our communities so that no illness goes untreated.”

Dr. Munkarah said COVID-19 hospitalizations across the health system were expected to reach 500 by day’s end. The last time those numbers were seen during the first surge was in April 2020. Bed occupancy was at 92%, similar to what other hospitals across Michigan are experiencing. Volume has also doubled in intensive care units, and a 19% positivity rate is up nearly five-fold in the past six weeks.

Starting today and continuing through Friday, elective procedures are being prioritized and limited at Henry Ford Macomb Hospital, which is treating the highest number of COVID-19 patients. The decision will be reassessed over the weekend.

Henry Ford’s four other acute-care hospitals continue to provide a full slate of services and Riney said leaders are hopeful “we can maintain this balance.” Leaders said the health system is flexing capacity to make certain that the needs of patients including non-COVID patients who need outpatient or hospital care. They stressed people not to delay needed care especially for a medical emergency like chest pain, slurred speech or dizziness. “Our Emergency Departments, no matter how busy, will take good care of you while also keeping you safe,” Riney said, “and the delays will only complicate matters for you.”

Dr. Munkarah attributed the swift rise in cases and hospitalization to a combination of factors: new variants including the B.1.1.7 virus that is more contagious and transmissible, people who have not yet been vaccinated and school activities and sports. One of the age groups with the highest testing rate are people ages 10-29.

With the vaccine eligibility now open to anyone 16 and older in Michigan, Dr. Munkarah urged people to get vaccinated as quickly as possible.

“We’re asking everyone to step up and get vaccinated for the greater good of our community,” Dr. Munkarah said. “Talk to your family members, friends, neighbors and work colleagues. Make sure they get their name on any list, whether it’s at a pharmacy, Ford Field, TCF Center, Henry Ford Health System, and get vaccinated so we can get this pandemic behind us.”

Also discussed at the briefing:

  • A newly opened Post ICU Brain Health Clinic to help COVID-19 and non COVID-19 patients overcome cognitive and mental health conditions after being hospitalized in the intensive care unit
  • Henry Ford was selected as a study site for the Moderna pediatric vaccine clinical trial. The clinical trial will be investigating the safety and efficacy of a vaccine for children ages 6 months to 12 years old. Further details will be released in the coming weeks including a phone number for people to call and a website
  • The Henry Ford Virtual Exam Kit that allows doctors to remotely look inside a patient’s throat and ears, listen to their heart and lungs and more, without the patient having to leave their home. This 3D technology has a built-in camera and three special adapters that enhances the capability and convenience of a virtual visits


About Henry Ford Health System
Founded in 1915 by Henry Ford himself, Henry Ford Health System is a non-profit, integrated health system committed to improving people’s lives through excellence in the science and art of healthcare and healing. Henry Ford Health System includes Henry Ford Medical Group, with more than 1,900 physicians and researchers practicing in more than 50 specialties at locations throughout Southeast and Central Michigan. Acute care hospitals include Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit, MI and Henry Ford Allegiance Health in Jackson, MI – both Magnet® hospitals; Henry Ford Macomb Hospital; Henry Ford West Bloomfield Hospital; and Henry Ford Wyandotte Hospital.

The largest of these is Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit, a quaternary care research and teaching hospital and Level 1 Trauma Center recognized for clinical excellence in cardiology, cardiovascular surgery, neurology, neurosurgery, and multi-organ transplants. The health system also provides comprehensive, best-in-class care for cancer at the Brigitte Harris Cancer Pavilion, and orthopedics and sports medicine at the William Clay Ford Center for Athletic Medicine – both in Detroit.

As one of the nation’s leading academic medical centers, Henry Ford Health System annually trains more than 3,000 medical students, residents, and fellows in more than 50 accredited programs, and has trained nearly 40% of the state’s physicians. Our dedication to education and research is supported by nearly $100 million in annual grants from the National Institutes of Health and other public and private foundations.

Henry Ford’s not-for-profit health plan, Health Alliance Plan (HAP), provides health coverage for more than 540,000 people.

Henry Ford Health System employs more than 33,000 people, including more than 1,600 physicians, more than 6,600 nurses and 5,000 allied health professionals.


MEDIA CONTACT: David Olejarz / [email protected] / 313-303-0606