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State health officials stress hospital staffing shortage

"We have lost a tremendous number of healthcare providers ... we will lose more"
Posted at 11:29 PM, Dec 29, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-29 23:29:35-05

INDIANAPOLIS — After dealing with the emotional and physical toll of the pandemic for nearly two years, hundreds of healthcare workers are leaving their jobs as frustration and exhaustion grow.

"We need help. We need help from the managers too," said Nicki Speck.

Speck has been a registered nurse for 13 years and has treated patients in several Indianapolis hospitals.

"It is getting dangerous; like I know on a med surge unit they are going to seven patients for each nurse but they are losing nurses because that is a lot of workload for one nurse. I am an ICU nurse, some are going to four patients for one nurse and that is not safe as well," Speck said.

Patient volumes are skyrocketing and as of Wednesday, just 9.2% of the state's ICU beds are available.

Chief Medical Officer for the State Department of Health Dr. Lindsay Weaver says patients are receiving care in hallways and conference rooms.

"I see this every time I work in the ER. We are often seeing patients being held in the ER for hours and sometimes days until a bed becomes available, which is difficult for their patient, the family and the staff," said Dr. Weaver.

The stress and strain throughout the pandemic has caused hundreds of healthcare workers to leave their jobs.

"With nurses leaving, they are asking them to pick up more time and more time and more time and it's a lot of stress on us," said Speck.

Speck left in the beginning of the pandemic to become a travel nurse and spend more time with her twins. She knows of several nurses who are doing the same.

"We have lost a tremendous number of healthcare providers. Someone very close to us just told us his wife was leaving an ER setting because she just can't do it anymore. Quite honestly, we will continue to lose more nurses, respiratory therapists and physicians from the healthcare profession, and we were already short," said State Health Commissioner Dr. Kristina Box.

Dr. Box says it's going to take time for hospitals to recover.

"We will have significant issues going forward with being able to staff our hospitals. You can only use the Indiana National Guard and federal resources for so long," she said.

Health leaders also shared an important reminder on Wednesday - if you need a COVID test, do not go to an emergency room because it puts additional strain on staff.

To find a testing site in Indiana, click here. The Fishers mass vaccination site located at 12520 E. 116th Street will be open from 9 a.m. – 7 p.m. on Thursday, December 30.