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Hospitals in Indiana hitting capacity, diverting patients

It's a staffing problem
Hospital staffing
Posted at 7:14 PM, Dec 02, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-02 19:14:33-05

INDIANAPOLIS — Several hospitals in Central Indiana are reaching capacity and at times, having to divert emergency patients.

It has happened at Community Health Network hospitals and Franciscan Health hospitals in Marion County as well as at Johnson Memorial Health in Johnson County.

“We just literally could not take care of any more patients,” said Dr. David Dunkle at Johnson Memorial Health. He said it happened on Tuesday night, but not because they ran out of beds.

“I will never run out of beds. I will run out of staff. We are seeing that right now, last night we didn't go on diversion because of beds, we went on diversion because we didn't have the staff to take care of those patients.”

Dr. Dunkle said 22 staff members were out due to COVID-19. That’s the highest number they’ve seen since the pandemic started. “It's scary to think that you don't have enough staff. You call, you try to incentivize, but again people can only work so much and there are only so many people out there with the potential to work,” said Dr. Dunkle.

A nursing shortage isn’t unique to Johnson Memorial and it isn’t new due to the pandemic. “It really just exacerbated a problem that we already have,” said Stacy Maitha. She is the 2021 president for the Indiana Emergency Nurses Association. She said statewide there are nurses who haven’t had a day off in weeks. Many are dealing with burnout as well.

“Going into this second wave of surge, nurses don't really feel like they've had much breathing room. There's really not been much of a break,” said Maitha.

Health leaders say it is important to avoid pandemic fatigue, and they are asking the community to still take steps to prevent the spread of COVID-19, such as wearing a mask, social distancing and avoiding large gatherings.

“We're telling you, this is bad. This is something you really need to take seriously,” said Maitha.

“People can’t ignore the fact that over 250,000 people in the United States have died from COVID. That’s more people than have died from stroke, suicide… those are serious problems. Why people ignore COVID, I can’t grasp it as a physician,” said Dr. Dunkle.