INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. — Medical experts predict Indiana could be just weeks away from a surge in seriously ill COVID-19 virus patients.
Local hospitals are taking inventories now in anticipation of that medical care spike.
Dr. Ram Yeleti, Chief Physician Executive of Community Health Network, expressed real doubts Monday as to whether the state’s hospital system has the capacity to absorb the predicted surge of patients who may require long term treatment and care in their personal battles with the novel coronavirus.
“We don’t have enough health care workers as this worsens,” said Dr. Yeleti after it was announced that Indiana’s first coronavirus fatality was a patient who died in a Community Health Network facility. “Additionally, we don’t have enough beds. There’s too many people getting sick.”
FOX59 News has collected the comments of authorities at several Indianapolis medical care centers who are guardedly optimistic that local hospitals can handle the expected influx.
“We have adequate supplies of personal protection equipment,” read a statement from Franciscan Alliance which has 543 beds spread across three central Indiana locations. “We already have had a high isolation census because of seasonal influenza … but it is a daily challenge.”
“Today, our supply is adequate,” read a statement from Eskenazi Health. “We have designated rooms across Eskenazi Health facilities, including in our outpatient centers, as isolation rooms.
“We … established a command center dedicated to monitoring the COVID-19 situation.”
In a March 12th interview posted on IU Health’s facebook page, IH Health Director for Infection Control Dr. Douglas Webb said, “We have contingency plans. What if we have 20 patients with COVID-19 and they all need to be in the ICU at the same time and they all need to be on ventilators and there’s another 40 that have to be seen and evaluated, so we’re trying to think through how to ramp up those services, how to provide for care even when some of our health care workers may be sick and out of work.”
Methodist Hospital is one of fifty hospitals in the country with a Special Pathogens Unit which could be expected to treat Indiana’s most critically ill coronavirus patients should the anticipated surge in cases materialize.
“We are one that currently stands as an evaluation center,” said Methodist Unit Manager Mary Kay Foster, R.N. “If we have to bring a patient to the hospital, we would use standardized isolation gear, gowns, gloves, n95, which is a respirator mask for health care providers, and eye protection, and that is what EMS would be wearing and what we would be wearing to go retrieve the patient and bring them up to the floor.”
Nationally, the Department of Health & Human Services expects that a moderate coronavirus pandemic would require the hospitalization of at least 64,000 Americans, while hospitals across the country currently have approximately 62,000 mechanical ventilators on hand with another ten thousand in the national stockpile.
A majority of the ventilators in operation today are being used to treat already hospitalized pre-coronavirus patients suffering from the flu and other respiratory illnesses.
“All of these systems are businesses and they can’t afford to have expensive respirators and some of the equipment, as well as the people to operate all of that, just laying around waiting,” said Peter Beering, a veteran emergency preparedness consultant who has studied the state’s response plans to pandemics and other disasters for more than two decades. “I’m relatively sure they can muster a lot of that from existing resources. Certainly every operating room has respirators in it and there won’t be a lot of elective surgery if this progresses the way the statistics suggest it may.”
Governor Eric Holcomb has ordered all hospitals in Indiana to cancel or postpone elective and non-essential surgery to free up beds, equipment and staff in anticipation of the coronavirus patient surge.
“Central Indiana’s medical institutions, while they technically are competitors, actually cooperate quite well and they have quite a bit of resources,” said Beering. “This is not a situation that we’ve seen elsewhere in the world. We have a lot of medical capacity and we have a lot of medical capacity here in central Indiana that people have thought about that could be placed into service to help deal with the surge.”
“I have a lot of confidence in our health care system,” said Dr. Webb in the IU Health Facebook video post, “and the people that we work with that we will be able to respond to this, so don’t lose heart, work with us and for such a time as this, we’re here.”
View the IU Health Facebook videos here: