Federal medical personnel headed to Indiana amid latest COVID-19 surge

IN Focus: Indiana Politics

INDIANAPOLIS – The White House has announced federal medical personnel are now heading to Indiana to help hospitals during this latest COVID-19 surge.

A 20-person team from the U.S. Navy is headed to IU Health Methodist Hospital to offer assistance over the next month, according to IU Health and federal officials.

Additional hospitals around the state – including some in Northern Indiana – are also requesting this kind of help, according to Brian Tabor, president of the Indiana Hospital Association.

There’s no word yet on whether additional Indiana hospitals could receive federal assistance.

Many Indiana hospitals are treating more patients than ever before, Tabor said.

“With the omicron variant that is looming, it just feels like there’s no end in sight,” he said.

There are no locations in the Hoosier State that are immune to this latest COVID-19 surge, Tabor said.

Indiana hospitals are treating a record-breaking total of roughly 12,000 patients per day, he added.

This comes as the omicron variant was discovered in Indiana earlier this week.

“I don’t know really that the system can take a big surge from omicron or where we would be if we had an incident like [what] occurred down in Kentucky with tornadoes,” Tabor said.

The federal government is now joining Indiana’s COVID-19 response. IU Health Methodist Hospital will receive a group of 20 doctors, nurses and respiratory professionals from the U.S. Navy, according to an IU Health spokesperson.

IU Health declined our request for an interview but sent us a statement, which reads: “Given the strain on Indiana University Health’s team members, nurses and providers is increasing due to rising COVID and non-COVID patient hospitalizations, IU Health continues to leverage all available resources to support patient care. The United States Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has accepted our request to support staffing at IU Health Methodist Hospital for approximately 30 days beginning this week. The 20 person clinical team will consist of physicians, nurses and respiratory professionals, and be integrated into medical units at IU Health Methodist in areas of greatest need. IU Health leadership continues to meet with U.S. military leadership to navigate the operations plan and ensure optimal utilization of this support team. IU Health is grateful for this support and will share more information as it becomes available.”

Other hospitals are requesting similar assistance. Eskenazi Health is seeking help from the Indiana National Guard, according to Dr. Graham Carlos, executive medical director.

“We need all hands on deck,” Dr. Carlos said. “And so this should be a very objective sign to Hoosiers everywhere that hey, we’re in dire straits here.”

Facing a surging number of patients and shortages of staff, Indiana hospitals are doing what they can to accommodate the need.

“We are boarding patients in our ER, which means they sleep overnight in the ER because there are no staff to beds available up on the floors,” said Steve Long, president and CEO of Hancock Regional Hospital. “And so we’re over 100% capacity on a regular basis.”

The Indiana Department of Health declined our request for an interview for this story, referring us to the U.S. Department of Defense.

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