Hospitals faced with staffing shortages as Indiana sees record COVID-19 hospitalizations

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INDIANAPOLIS — The Indiana Hospital Association worries that the healthcare system could be nearing a breaking point as the state endures a record number of COVID-19 hospitalizations.

In the spring, hospitals scrambled to get more personal protective equipment and ventilators. The change in seasons is presenting a new challenge with staffing.

“Fast forward to today, and the supplies of PPE, the ventilators are there,” said Brian Tabor, president of IHA. “Those are stable. We know more about how to treat COVID, but staffing is really challenging right now.”

Tabor is one of many in healthcare concerned about the record number of COVID-19 hospitalizations. On Monday, Indiana hit its highest number of COVID-19 patients in the hospital with 2,768. It is a more than 180% increase compared to hospitalizations on October 1.

He said hospitals for the most part have the equipment for more cases, but the length of this pandemic is taken a toll on the workforce. Hospitals are also losing staff for a variety of reasons, like quarantine or even retirement.

“The fear is that the system essentially gets overrun, and that sounds really scary, and that is why we are ringing the alarm now,” said Tabor.

If the trends continue this way, Tabor believes the breaking point is possibly a few weeks away. He warned hospitalizations lag about two weeks behind the rise in COVID-19 cases.

“It’s about making sure that you protect the system so that if you have a stroke or your loved one has a stroke, you don’t have to worry. You know they are going to get immediately seen by the best care,” he explained.

Schneck Medical Center in Seymour is struggling with staffing shortages too. Their biggest concern is making sure patients are cared for.

“Anytime we do not have the appropriate number of staff or the appropriate number of beds, then we may not be able to keep our patients,” said Amy Pettit, VP of patient care services at Schneck Medical Center.

That is why front-line workers are begging the public to follow the guidance.

“Whether that is down in Kentucky or up in Michigan, Illinois or Ohio, they are busy too. So there are no troops we can call in to staff the hospitals,” said Tabor.

Indiana has established a healthcare reserve workforce, and those volunteers will provide additional support to both hospitals and long-term care facilities. The state is still asking more people to sign up.

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