As COVID cases continue to increase across the state, and the number of hospitalized COVID and non-COVID patients reach all-time highs, Indiana University Health is calling in some reinforcements.
“To best support our team members and patients, IU Health will leverage all available resources and enlist members of Indiana’s National Guard, in conjunction with the Indiana Department of Health, to assist in areas of critical need,” IU Health said Thursday.
The six-person National Guard teams will be sent to all IU Health hospitals, except for Riley Children’s Hospital. The teams will consist of two clinical and four non-clinical service members, and deployments are in two-week increments. The clinical service members will treat patients, while the rest of the team members will offer administrative and logistical support. All members of the National Guard teams are fully vaccinated.
Dr. Chris Weaver, Chief Clinical Officer at IU Health, said in a Zoom call Thursday afternoon that some National Guard teams have already arrived at Ball Memorial Hospital in Muncie.
“Muncie was the first we made a request for,” Dr. Weaver said. “They’ve been hit really, really hard with a high number of COVID patients in that area.”
He adds that it’s not just hospitals in the bigger cities that are overwhelmed.
“Rural, urban hospitals are really busy right now. County to county, there might be some hospitals here and there that might have a little bit of space, but the vast majority are really busy,” Weaver said.
Associate Chief Medical Executive Dr. Paul Calkins says another surge of coronavirus is not what healthcare workers wanted, as they’re already drained — emotionally, physically, and mentally.
“Our people are incredibly tired,” Dr. Calkins said. “We were watching the numbers go down, and to have them turn back around and start going back up again is just about the most disheartening thing.”
He’s worried that this might lead to even more staffing shortages in hospitals because healthcare workers are “at the end of their rope.”
Dr. Calkins also reminds you that a surge in COVID cases impacts patients that don’t even have the virus.
“Pretty much all of our emergency room departments have people are holding in them, because there is no room in the hospital at the moment. That means people that come in with, really, any disease, particularly non-COVID illnesses, are going to be backed up.”
He says IU Health has had to delay “several thousands” surgeries because of the lack of room and staff in hospitals.