INDIANAPOLIS — In the three weeks since a 20-person U.S. Navy medical team deployed to IU Health Methodist Hospital, COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations across the state surged while staffing and resource shortages continued.
On Friday, Methodist was treating 158 COVID positive patients. University Hospital had 49 COVID-19 patients. Systemwide, IU Health was treating 589 coronavirus patients.
“We’re still at the point when any bed does open, it becomes immediately filled by another patient,” Dr. Mark Luetkemeyer said. He is the Chief Medical Officer for the Adult Academic Health Center at IU Health.
Busy inside Methodist Hospital’s walls is an understatement.
“It is like a movie, it’s much like a movie,” Lieutenant Megan Bess said. She is serving as a staff nurse on medical surgical unit at Methodist.
She described constant alarms and beeping filling the hallways of the hospital.
“We’re fully integrated, so it’s just like I’m going into my regular job if I was on a naval base or army base serving, so it’s no different than that it’s just that I’m not home with my family, I’m away,” Lt. Bess said.
Walking in through the doors of Methodist, Lt. Bess said there are “masks for you to grab everywhere” and family members are often there trying to visit loved ones. She said on the floor, there is “a lot going on.”
“It’s no more you’re going in to take care of patients, you’re going in to take care of patients that are really sick,” Lt. Bess said. She noted despite the reality of the hospital, patients are thankful for the care.
“Patients are very, very grateful for the care they're receiving. They understand that, oh it may take a little longer than usual person to give them something,” Lt. Bess said. She continued, “They are very particular to the services that we're providing, so it makes it feel like even though we're extremely busy, it makes it very rewarding.”
Lieutenant Commander Michael Gibboney is the officer in charge of the medical team.
“This is our second mission. Our first was to Wenatchee, Washington where we spent about 30 days out there helping one of the regional hospitals,” Lt. Commander Gibboney said.
He focuses on administrative roles noting how quickly the team caught up to speed.
“The whole team is proud to be here. Obviously, everyone misses their family misses their children. But to know that we're doing something so much bigger than each of us individually is a great feeling and a great accomplishment,” Lt. Commander Gibboney said.
Dr. Luetkemeyer said both he and IU Health are grateful for the U.S. Navy team’s help.
“These are highly skilled individuals that really have been able to step in in completely new environments in a nuclear space with new people have been so impressed with how well they have assimilated with the team here. It's been a very uplifting in any body that can help care for patients is a huge lifted for our health care team,” Dr. Luetkemeyer said. He continued, “When you talk about the value of team, this team has really embodied those values and have been a great, great support and help.”
Chief Medical Officer Dr. Luetkemeyer said it is unclear when peak will hit, but the hospital is prepared for what may come through its doors over the next few weeks, and the U.S. Navy team plays a big part in that.
The advice from medical professionals remains the same — get vaccinated, wear a mask and practice good health measures.