Lack of beds forces some area hospitals to divert ambulance patients

Coronavirus

INDIANAPOLIS — Area hospitals are seeing beds fill up as COVID cases continue to rise from the delta variant. The lack of beds is causing some facilities to avoid taking ambulance traffic.

“Back in June, one out of fifty of our beds were COVID patients. Today it’s one out of eight,” said Dr. Ram Yeleti, chief physician executive of Community Health Network. “If this keeps on going, we won’t have enough beds to take care of broken bones, heart attacks, and strokes.”

When hospitals defer ambulance traffic due to being overwhelmed it is called diversion. Each day for the past month, local Emergency Medical Service (EMS) crews say at least four to five Indy hospitals have been on it at the same time.

“Diversion status changes honestly from hour to hour sometimes,” explained Bargersville Fire Department EMS Lt. Lynn Goodner, “Methodist Hospital, Eskenazi Hospital, the large hospitals, or St Vincent’s, some of the Community Health Network hospitals, if those hospitals are on diversion, there are very few places we can go.”

At times EMS crews are waiting 45 minutes to get a patient into a bed. Lt. Goodner says generally trauma patients will always be seen quickly regardless of diversion, but that is not always the case. Hospitals have a pecking order of priority.

“Depends, but they can yes if their pain is managed,” adds Lt. Goodner speaking of delays for trauma patients.

The issues are not isolated to Indianapolis hospitals either. In fact, it can be more impactful in rural areas.

“If a county hospital goes on diversion, you have to take everyone outside the county,” detailed Lt. Goodner.

Adding to the issues, Lt. Goodner says there is a shortage of EMS responders. At last glance, he saw one paramedic per every ten paramedic jobs.

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