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Leaders give update on COVID-19, space and staffing issues at IU Health

navy at iu health methodist
Posted at 3:19 PM, Jan 04, 2022

INDIANAPOLIS — Healthcare workers and leaders at IU Health are continuing to urge Hoosiers to get vaccinated and practice mitigation efforts as hospitals deal with overcrowding and staffing issues.

Dr. Chris Weaver, senior vice president and chief clinical officer, said all hospitals in the IU Health system are over capacity and some are at 120% capacity.

The message from healthcare workers and leaders was clear: They are still urging Hoosiers to get vaccinated, get boosted, get tested if needed and able and practice good hygiene to help slow the spread.

“We are here to take care of you,” Linden said. “We serve our community and all of our hospitals across the state serve our communities in the best way that we can."

She said the one thing known to be true about COVID-19 is it has impacted all aspects of our lives.

"But what I can say is and we know is when you’re vaccinated and you have the booster, it reduces your risk of having to be hospitalized or even death that will allow us to get our community to herd immunity space where then it becomes part of what we deal with every day,” Linden said.

She said that is probably the biggest ask of healthcare workers.

“Take care of yourselves and protect yourselves and others from getting so ill that you require that hospitalization or that can cause an unnecessary death.”

While most of the patients with COVID-19 inside IU Health hospitals have the delta variant, Weaver said they are predicting the current surge will go higher as the omicron variant spreads in the community.

Riley Hospital for Children

Elaine Cox, the vice president and chief medical officer at Riley Hospital for Children, said of the patients coming to the hospital with COVID-19, more than half are spending time in the ICU and 40% of those patients are spending time on a ventilator.

FEMA, Indiana National Guard help at hospitals

The Indiana National Guard is helping healthcare workers inside 13 IU Health Hospitals. Members of the U.S. Navy are also assisting healthcare workers at IU Health Methodist Hospital.

They are partnering with healthcare workers in areas depending on the greatest need and the skills of the Navy members, Critical Care Doctor Lt. Donovan Mabe, with the Navy, said.

This includes working in emergency departments, Liz Linden said.

Lt. Commander Micahel Gibboney, who is the medical response team officer in charge for the Navy, said the teams have tried to be as flexible as possible to integrate where they are needed.

The situation inside hospitals

Those who spoke at the press conference on Tuesday said they are continuing to plan and treat patients while dealing with staffing issues and overcrowding.

Michele Saysane said IU Health has turned spaces you normally wouldn't treat patients in, like conference rooms and ambulance bays, into spaces to treat patients.

Weaver said staffing is continuing to be a challenge for the healthcare system as people leave the workforce after a tough two years and deal with their own illnesses or quarantine and isolation requirements.

As concerns about the spread of the omicron variant grow, Weaver said the healthcare system is continuing to plan to treat patients, but it's not anticipating the need to use things like tents again to treat patients. He said they have better ways to create spaces for patients.

Elective surgeries

At this time, IU Health has suspended elective, non-emergent surgeries, Weaver said.

IU Health, and other healthcare systems in the state, have previously done this before during other surges.

Weaver said the term "elective" can be debatable, but in general, any surgery or procedure not considered an emergency is being postponed.

New COVID-19 guidance for healthcare workers

Michele Saysane, vice president and chief patient safety and quality officer, said IU Health reviewed new quarantine and isolation guidance from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

After reviewing the guidance, data and literature, IU Health is allowing healthcare workers to return to work after five days if they meet certain criteria, Saysane said.

Some of the criteria includes symptoms improving, a negative COVID-19 test and being fever-free for at least 24 hours.