With hospitalizations from COVID-19 soaring to new heights in recent weeks, the Indiana Hospital Association on Tuesday warned that medical facilities are straining to keep up with the patient loads, and called on Hoosiers to wear face coverings and practice social distancing.
The association, which represents more than 100 hospitals across the state, said all Hoosiers “should be alarmed at the COVID-19 trends we are seeing across the state.” It pointed out that hospitalizations have increased by 143% since Oct. 1.
For nine consecutive days, the Indiana Department of Health has reported higher numbers of people with COVID-19 in hospitals. On Tuesday, it said that 2,336 Hoosiers were hospitalized as of Monday, up from 963 on Oct. 1.
“Many hospitals are reporting staff shortages as the pandemic takes its toll,” association President Brian Tabor said in a written statement. “Hoosier nurses, doctors, and other front-line hospital staff have been working non-stop since the early spring. Please give these courageous health care heroes some much-needed relief by wearing a face covering, practicing social distancing, washing your hands, and staying home when you are sick. We need everyone to take these steps to relieve the enormous strain on the system at this critical time.”
In late September, Indiana lifted almost all pandemic-related restrictions on social gatherings and business activity. Gov. Eric Holcomb has told Hoosiers to wear masks and practice social distancing, but there are no penalties for not complying.
COVID-19 cases are surging in nearly every region across Indiana, with the northern region of the state recording the highest number of cases along with Marion County and portions of southern Indiana. Most counties across the state are coded orange at this time, meaning the positivity rate in those counties has grown to a range of 10% to 14.9% in the last seven days.
Many hospitals have told IBJ in recent days they are scrambling to keep up with the increased patient load, and are converting medical/surgical wings into COVID-19 isolation areas. The hospitals are also trying to fill nursing, medical and support shifts as staff members call in sick or are sent home after testing positive.
“We are seeing a significant uptick in inpatient COVID patients,” said Dr. Christopher Doehring, vice president of medical affairs at Franciscan Health. “And I think most of us are approaching our all-time highs as far as hospitalized COVID patients are concerned.”
COVID-19 patients typically require at least a week of hospitalization and sometimes much longer, he said, compared to the average inpatient stay of about five days.
“So, you can see if the number of these COVID patients keeps going up,it has kind of a compounding effect on hospital capacity, because of that longer length of stay,” he said.
Indiana University Health, the state’s largest hospital system, told IBJ on Friday that about 700 staff members were quarantined and unable to work out of a total workforce of about 35,000.
“When you start to get down to unit levels, if you’re trying to staff units, and you have even, you know, four or five people calling in (sick), that creates a big challenge,” said Dr. Michele Saysana, chief quality and safety officer for IU Health, which owns 16 hospitals. “I would say it’s a strain.”