IU Health caring for record number of COVID-19 patients, gets help from Navy team

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Methodist Hospital (IBJ file photo)

Indiana University Health, the state’s largest hospital system, said Thursday it is caring for a record number of COVID-19 patients as it converts conference rooms into patient wards and adds hundreds of beds across its 16 hospitals.

“We have been in a constant stage of surge essentially since the beginning of October,” Dr. Mark Luetkemeyer, chief medical officer of IU Health’s Methodist and University hospitals, said during a press briefing.

The hospital system is now getting a bit of help from a 23-member U.S. Navy team, which arrived in Indianapolis on Wednesday.

The Navy team is now training at Methodist Hospital, and is expected to begin caring for patients in coming days. The team consists of four doctors, 14 nurses and two registered technicians, along with three administrative staffers.

“We are working hand in hand with the staff here to learn their system, their procedures, their protocols,” said Lieutenant Commander Michael Gibboney.

Dr. Chris Weaver, IU Health’s chief clinical officer, said the 23-person Navy team is relatively small but will help ease strain and fatigue for many overworked doctors and nurses on staff.

“In reality, we could use that times 20, obviously, across our system and across the state,” Weaver said. “It’s not going to meet near what we would love to see. At the same time, 20 clinical experts will plug in and work as a part of our team.”

He said the federal assistance will allow Methodist Hospital, the state’s largest hospital, to open up “many, many more beds.” In recent weeks, the hospital has converted conference rooms and other areas into patient wards and added about 100 beds. As of Thursday, the downtown hospital was caring for about 127 COVID-19 patients.

The expansion of even more beds will allow Methodist Hospital officials to move patients more quickly from the emergency room to beds upstairs. With the current shortage of beds, many patients have to wait hours longer than needed in the emergency room.

IU Health was caring for 551 COVID-19 patients, a record high at any point in the pandemic, officials said. More than six patients a day are dying in the system’s hospitals.

The hospital system asked for federal help through Gov. Eric Holcomb’s office, which forwarded the request to the Federal Emergency Management Agency. The Department of Defense approved the request and sent the Navy team to Indianapolis. The team is scheduled to remain at Methodist Hospital for about a month.

It’s just the latest help from uniformed personnel to hospitals in Indiana. IU Health said the Indiana National Guard had been enlisted at 14 of its 16 hospitals during the pandemic.

Hospitals across the nation are dealing with a severe shortage of nurses and other patient-care professionals, many of whom have retired, quit or taken administrative jobs.

On Sunday, three large hospital systems, including Indiana University Health, placed a full-page ad in the Indianapolis Star pleading with Hoosiers to get vaccinated, boosted, tested and wear masks.

“The situation is dire,” the ad said.  “We have more patients in our hospitals than we have beds. We’re converting available units into critical care wards, just to make room. And as you know, healthcare workers across the country are exhausted and running out of steam.”

The ad coincided with news that Indiana health officials identified the first case of the omicron variant of COVID-19 in an unvaccinated Hoosier. The specimen was collected on Dec. 9 and confirmed as an omicron variant by lab tests this past weekend.

Hospitalizations from COVID-19 tripled in recent weeks to 3,002 as of Tuesday. The pandemic high was 3,460 on Nov. 20, 2020.

On Tuesday, state health officials reported that only 12% of intensive care unit beds were available statewide.

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12 thoughts on “IU Health caring for record number of COVID-19 patients, gets help from Navy team

  1. Okay, are these Navy medical teams active duty or reservists? If active duty, who fills in for them while in Indy? If reservists, are they now leaving their home hospitals short-staffed? Either way, it looks like robbing Peter to pay Paul. The media needs to follow up on this.

    1. The media should ask a lot of medical ethics professionals if it’s worth driving the American health care system into the ground to save anti-vaxers, between the non-COVID folks who won’t get the care they need and the health care professionals we’ve lost forever.

    2. This administration has proven you won’t “vaccinate your way out of it,” Joe.

      It’s been 2 years. Why hasn’t the bright minds at Mayo, John Hopkins, Harvard, et. al. created a proper treatment program?

      The test people and tell them to hide at home unless they are in need of hospital care is not treatment.

      Are there no over the counter and/or other therapy besides the obvious: lose weight, eat healthy, stay away from smoking, alcohol and drugs…?

    3. What on earth is your point here?

      You wanted herd immunity? Think we will be there in a few months after this latest wave rips through and infects everyone. The vaccinated will do far better than the unvaccinated… but you know that.

      “Since Nov 4 (approx start of fall surge):
      77% of cases were #unvaccinated
      92% of hospitalizations
      75% of deaths

      Since Jan 18 (1st full #vaccinations):
      83% of cases
      95% of hospitalizations
      88% of deaths

      2.87% of fully vaxed Hoosiers have tested positive
      .06% hosp
      .03% died”

      Might want to stop here if another Twitter link will trigger you…


    4. Joe:

      The data you reference states – “2.87% of fully vaxed Hoosiers have tested positive”.

      If that doesn’t give you pause, you must not look at data much.

      That’s the biggest farce I’ve read this week, but it’s only Tuesday.

    5. Well, for one, I disagree with the idea that “fully vaxed” consists of two shots, or even one of the J&J vaccine. Funny how the science changes and evolves. But you knew that would be the case, right?

      Like I’ve said, if 100% of people were vaccinated, then 100% of cases would be in the vaccinated. And I still got that big box of hot fresh Long’s yeast donuts on offer because I’m that certain that, if 100% of people were vaccinated, the number of people hospitalized and dying would be far lower than the current state.

      That said, if the current vaccine is unsatisfactory for you, that 0.06% of those vaccinated are getting hospitalized, what are you proposing? Lock downs and mask mandates until we find another vaccines that prevents not just deaths or hospitalizations, but also all infections? And when we get that magic vaccine, mandating its use to prevent all further spread of COVID, with no exceptions?

      Or, continue on our current tracking, with those who’d rather not take a chance with their life being able to get vaccinated/boosted being largely immune from ending up in the hospital or dying?

      The largest mistake we’re making is continuing to prioritize the unvaccinated to the detriment of the health care system. That’s who is filling the hospitals and ICU’s. Those who need emergent non-COVID care can’t get it. We aren’t having elective surgeries because we’ve decided to save the unvaccinated instead. I get where that makes sense from a medical ethics standpoint, and where it made sense before vaccines were widely available. But now? Look, they made a decision, let them live (or die) with it.

      Your idea that HCP’s aren’t actually burned out attending to constant death, that just throwing more money at them will make it all better, is really cute but I’m going to need to see more evidence to support that.

      You love to tear things down and really have no solutions to propose in alternative. That you correlate people like Fauci (career professionals) with politicians tells me that maybe you don’t understand how things work. Pithy slogans like “get politics out of medicine” are super-fun to say, other than all the evidence points to the influence of the Republican Party as being the guilty party as far as making science political. Recall, it was Republicans who came out and even fought the idea of going door-to-door to offer people vaccinations.

      So, I mean, it’s about time that Trump finally came out and encouraged people to get the vaccine, the ones that I’ve been saying for months is his crowning accomplishment. That such interviews have been responded to so poorly by the base, which is dying at much higher rates than Biden’s base, is not the least surprising. The real virus is the nonsense that has invaded the Republican Party, and you are right … we’ll never be able to vaccine our way out of that.

  2. There seems to be something fishy about this. Why isn’t any other hospital crying wolf … er … for help?

    Nothing at all like this on Ascension, Community or Franciscan Health websites.
    And isn’t that the first call a reporter would make to verify a “trend.”
    But nothing reported … smells so fishy.

    Also a reader might wonder if this single hospital’s claimed woes is related to the fact that this single hospital is the one that fired 125 people for not getting vaccinated in September. Maybe completely unelated, but is the Navy IU Health’s Holiday temp service?

    Seems like a hospital with $9,000,000,000 in cash reserves could at least pay the US Navy for their trouble.

    1. Guess you missed all the stories where doctor’s/administrators at IU, Ascension, Community, and Eskenazi were complaining about being totally overwhelmed. St Vincent just had the national guard helping them a couple months ago.

      Anyway, continue living under a rock and pretending this is about a vaccine mandate. It isn’t, but that fits your preconceived notions, so just keep believing it. I’m sure you also think Antifa stormed the Capitol on 1/6.

    2. Between West Coast Wes and Joe B. the worlds problems should have been solved by now!

      Glad people are slowly waking up.

      The simple fact is IU Health is sitting on $9B as stated. They need to quit the mandate which hasn’t slowed any of the spread of a mutating virus, pay the healthcare professionals and hire with all the black in the balance sheet.

      Using the National Guard, the Navy, and FEMA while being paid (reimbursed) by the government to treat patients regardless of any health background, being paid (reimbursed) by the government to administer an endless vaccine which was developed with American tax dollars for R&D from again, your guessed it, the government, while all the hospitals and pharma makers keep the profits…

      …is a never ending cycling of money laundering.

      These are the simple facts. In hospitals every week and most have floors empty, lights off, staff gone because no need for elective surgery when they are making a “killing” are their central points of triage: Methodist, etc.

  3. Oh Wesley.
    I’m under no rock.
    And not “pretending this is about a vaccine mandate”
    Try to do with less cable news.

    Anyone over 60 who isn’t vaccinated is a moron, and as far as I’m concerned anyone who is that irresponsible has ceded their right to hospital care.

    I’m just questioning the tenor of the IU complaint and raising the possibility that this is exaggeration for effect — the effect being the continued attempt to stoke panic on the part of so-called “public health” officials.

    The data doesn’t confirm the tenor or even reported facts in this story. The testing positivity has been trending down for several days now and the hospitalization data is lower than 10 days ago and also trending down. See for yourself:

    I’m not a knee-jerker (like you). I’m just old-fashioned about journalism. We’ve got WAY too much journalism masquerading as narrative confirmation, instead of performing their duty to readers which starts with instinctive skepticism.

    1. Mark, outside of letting people die on the sidewalk, I’m not sure how they’re supposed to communicate the message “we have no staff/room for more sick people”.

      But maybe all those part-timers who didn’t want to get vaccinated can take care of their fellow unvaccinated at the Fairgrounds. Would be a fine pairing.

  4. What is sorely lacking right now is gratitude. Gratitude for our health care providers no matter what system or location they work. Gratitude for a military that can provide whatever they contribute. Gratitude for the political leaders that are trying to make the best decisions possible for the people they serve, rather than for political purposes. Gratitude that we live in the greatest nation on earth, regardless of what many would have us believe. Gratitude that we are free to celebrate the birth of Jesus and worship Him as the giver of eternal life. We certainly have much for which we can be grateful!