Johnson Memorial Hospital creating patient beds in offices, storage areas due to COVID-19 surge


FRANKLIN, Ind. — As COVID-19 cases continue to rise, one area hospital is having to get creative as it deals with a shortage of available patient rooms.

Dr. David Dunkle, the President and CEO of Johnson Memorial Health in Franklin, said they’re full right now.

“The ‘inn is full’ is what I tell people, and we’re thinking, ‘This is August, what’s normally a slow time for us. What’s going to happen in a couple months when were typically busy,'” Dunkle said.

They’ve begun to get creative. Dunkle said they’re turning old patient rooms that have been being used as office and storage space back into patient rooms.

Dunkle said they’re doing all of this as COVID-19 concerns rise in his hospital.

“I can tell you right now we’ve got 12 inpatients with COVID, every single one is unvaccinated,” he said. “That’s the most number of COVID patients we’ve had in this hospital since the vaccine came out.”

Dunkle said many of these patients are also younger than they are used to seeing.

”We have people under the age of 40 in the hospital now, many of which are on oxygen,” Dunkle said. “This is not just a disease of the elderly.”

With a limited number of beds, Dunkle said this can affect their ability to care for critical patients that come in as well.

”That’s what’s scary, because what happens when every bed is full you have that critical person who rolls into the emergency department and you don’t have that bed,” he said.

Just a few days ago, Dunkle said they had to send a critical patient all the way from Franklin to Muncie because they didn’t have a bed available.

Along with a shortage of beds, Dunkle said they’re also working with a shortage of employees, making the situation even more frightening.

”I am really afraid all the hospitals are going to be full and you throw in the perfect storm of nursing shortages, physician burnout and I really worry about what’s going to happen in the next couple of months,” he said.

As Dunkle and his employees look toward a potential fourth wave of COVID-19 in the fall, he said this year there is a new fear, a “twindemic.”

”That’s the combination of having the COVID hospitalizations and with the normal, typical influenza hospitalizations we get in the early winter,” he said.

Dunkle said he’s worried the flu will be on the comeback as less people wear masks this fall and winter.

”Those other respiratory illnesses, like influenza, that we were lucky to avoid last year, I don’t think we’re going to avoid them this year,” he said.

At the end of the day, Dunkle said the most frustrating part of it all is the COVID-19 vaccine is now so easily accessible.

”This shouldn’t be political, it’s not about personal choice,” Dunkle said. “It’s about doing the right thing. How many people have to die before more people get vaccinated?”

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