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Indiana hospital leaders express COVID concerns amid surge, shrinking capacity

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Posted at 1:07 AM, Dec 15, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-15 01:07:29-05

INDIANAPOLIS — Hospital leaders from several central Indiana health systems on Monday expressed concerns about the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic amid the continued surge in cases and shrinking capacity within hospital systems.

According to the Indianapolis Coalition for Patient Safety, a nonprofit comprised of leaders of central Indiana health systems, Indiana is averaging more than 6,000 COVID-19 patients per day. Of those new cases, approximately 3.5% require hospitalization. The ICPS said it has added up leading all local hospitals to struggle with inpatient, ICU and ventilator capacity.

The group also expressed special concern about the shortage of ICU beds, as the capacity is needed not only for severely ill COVID-19 patients, but for other patients needing acute care for heart attacks, car crashes and other possible emergency situations.

"I want to say thank you to Hoosiers who are doing their part to protect themselves and others from catching and spreading COVID-19," Dr. Michele Saysana, chair of the ICPS and chief quality and safety officer for IU Health. "While Friday's FDA authorization for the Pfizer vaccine represents a light at the end fo the tunnel, until we have widespread vaccination, we must continue to stay vigilant in our efforts to reduce the spread of COVID-19. Frontline healthcare workers and other groups at higher risk of getting COVID-19 will be among the first to receive a vaccine.

"And while this is promising news, we are far from mass vaccination that will allow us to return to 'normal.' We must continue to follow the prevention guidelines that we know work, and wear masks in public, wash our hands frequently and socially distance to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in our communities."

The state's hospitals are also experiencing staffing exhaustion and shortages even while approaching capacity.

Due to the community spread of the virus, hospital staff members are getting sick, putting a greater strain on those who can work, the ICPS said.

The looming winter and holidays also are threatening to make the situation worse. The ICPS said COVID-19, like other aerosol-transmitted viruses, lasts longer in the drier winter air. The weather also forces people indoors, in spaces with less ventilation, making it easier for the virus to spread.

"Local hospitals are fast approaching crisis. We ask that Hoosiers remain cautious during the coming winter months and the approaching holidays by following statewide and local restrictions," ICPS members said in a joint statement. "Please continue to practice preventive measures that slow the spread of COVID-19: wear a mask when inside and outside where you can't socially distance, avoid gathering with anyone outside your household, wash your hands frequently and keep a distance of at least six feet from others when indoors."