As COVID-19 hospitalizations decline, Indiana hospitals remain busy

Coronavirus

INDIANAPOLIS – COVID-19 hospitalizations are trending downward in Indiana, but several hospitals say they’re still extremely busy.

Data from the Indiana Department of Health shows COVID hospitalizations have dropped about 30% since the most recent peak in mid-September.

But many hospitals across the state say they’re still running near or at capacity, both in urban and rural areas.

At Reid Health’s hospital in Richmond, COVID hospitalizations have dropped roughly 40% in the last two weeks, according to Dr. Thomas Huth, vice president for medical affairs.

But the facility is still being stretched to its limits.

“Because we’ve created extra beds … with those we’re still running at 85%, 90% capacity,” Dr. Huth said.

One of the biggest challenges right now is a lack of adequate staffing across the health care industry, Dr. Huth said.

About 10% of the positions in his company are unfilled – twice the usual amount, he added.

“Nurses and respiratory therapists and the like – those people are having to work double shifts, triple shifts, extra long hours, mandatory overtime, nights and weekends,” Dr. Huth said.

And that’s as hospitals work to treat both COVID and non-COVID patients.

Dr. Daniel Cheriye, a critical care hospitalist for Hancock Regional Hospital, said some of his patients pushed off medical care over the last year of the pandemic.

“By the time they come to our ER, they’re severely ill,” he said. “They need lots of care.”

“We’re certainly hopeful and praying that the delta surge continues on its downward trajectory,” said Dr. Christopher Doehring, vice president for medical affairs at Franciscan Health.

It’s unclear how long Indiana’s hospitals will be stressed to the levels we’re seeing now, Dr. Doehring said. But he anticipates it could be a few more months.

The big message right now from doctors: Get vaccinated.

“That certainly makes a huge difference when it comes to the burden on hospitals and critical care units,” Dr. Doehring said. “And also clearly it saves lives.”

Doctors are encouraging COVID-19 booster shots for those who qualify. They’re also still urging Hoosiers to go to an urgent care or doctor’s office for more minor medical needs that don’t require hospitalization.

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