INDIANAPOLIS — COVID-19 case counts are reaching an all-time high in Indiana. A total of 15,277 new positive cases were added to the state’s COVID-19 dashboard during Thursday’s update – the highest single-day count since the pandemic began.
“I’m not surprised based on what I’m seeing coming in to our hospital… but also seeing how our own staff are impacted,” said Eskenazi Health’s Chief Nursing Officer, Lee Ann Blue.
Lee Ann Blue oversees all of the acute care services at Eskenazi Health and she said it is her job to ensure there is enough staff to provide quality patient care.
“Today we’re dealing with well over 100 positive COVID patients in the hospital,” said Blue. “It’s requiring a lot of extra staffing to support that kind of care.”
Blue said the hospital system’s recent uptick in COVID-19 inpatients is the highest it has been since the first surge of the pandemic. She said the emerging omicron is even beginning to impact her own staff.
Blue said nearly 100 staff members across Eskenazi Health are currently quarantined due to COVID-19 exposure. She said a majority of those staff members reported coming in contact with the virus outside of work – by visiting family members or school-aged children.
“I think it’s the time to really just double down and say keep wearing your mask no matter what,” said Blue.
Meanwhile, at Franciscan Health hospitals across Central Indiana, more than 200 employees are off work due to positive COVID-19 test result or due to coming in close contact with those testing positive.
“We have been experiencing staff shortages in a variety of nursing units and other clinical specialties, and certain non-clinical support areas. But this has been a constant challenge, certainly compounded by the long pandemic and the number of nurses who are reaching retirement age,” said a spokesperson for Franciscan Health Central Indiana.
At IU Health, officials said 1,728 hospital staff members are out due to quarantine requirements.
“Like other hospitals, IU Health is facing constraints with staffing. Today our staffing is affected by a continued surge of patients who require treatment for COVID-19 as well as an increase in employees who are sick or in quarantine because of COVID-19,” said a spokesperson.
As cases climb and staffing shortages are made worse by the new omicron variant, IU Health said it has hired temporary staff to help in food services and team members from other departments are temporarily working in high-need areas to supplement staff shortages.
Blue said Eskenazi Health has started a similar program to allow staff from other departments to fill in the gaps.
“We have people sign up for four-hour shifts and they can work with nursing, they can work with environmental services, or food nutrition – and just go in for four hours and help out. Do the things that they’re qualified to do,” said Blue. “We put [the program] out a little over a week ago, and I’ve already had 150 people sign up for it.”
Blue called it a hospital-wide effort to combat this latest surge together. She said the remaining frontline workers at Eskenazi Health are caring for more than 100 COVID-19 patients – a majority whom are unvaccinated.
“Everybody that works in the hospital right now to me is a hero,” said Blue. “I can see some light at the end of the tunnel. I really can.”
Read the full statements from area hospitals below:
From Community Health Network hospitals:
“Our caregivers, like anyone else, are susceptible to getting COVID-19 or to being contact traced. Like other hospitals around the state, we are faced with staffing challenges.
We have addressed some of our staffing challenges with our current caregivers going the extra mile by volunteering their time with some administrative functions. Called “Helping Hands”, employees at the director level and above are encouraged to help out with some of the day-to-day administrative work that our patient care team usually handles throughout their day. For example, answering phones, scheduling, stocking medical carts, cleaning or even helping in our cafeterias, kitchens, and front desks.
We are in the process of increasing paid internship opportunities.
We continue to partner with community outreach organizations to help the unemployed possibly find new positions within our organization.
We continue to invest in our recruitment technologies, employment brand and caregiver well-being strategies.
All this to say we are doing all we can to meet the needs of our patients.
However, our hospitals are overwhelmed. The majority of COVID patients admitted to our hospitals are unvaccinated or under vaccinated. We strongly encourage those who haven’t done so to get the COVID vaccine and get a booster. Mask up. Social distance.”Kris Kirschner – Director of Corporate Communication, Community Health Network
From Franciscan Health hospitals:
“Franciscan Health hospitals in Central Indiana currently have more than 200 employees off work. This number reflects those who have tested positive for COVID-19 or who are under isolation because they have been in close contact with those testing positive.
We have been experiencing staff shortages in a variety of nursing units and other clinical specialties, and certain non-clinical support areas. But this has been a constant challenge, certainly compounded by the long pandemic and the number of nurses who are reaching retirement age.
We are actively recruiting nurses through job fairs, online recruitment and marketing efforts, partnerships with community and educational institutions.
Like many hospitals, Franciscan Health continues to experience steadily increasing patient hospitalizations wrought by the COVID-19 crisis. Our emergency departments in Indianapolis and Mooresville have been stressed with large numbers of patients seeking care. As a result, we have been forced to go on diversion throughout the long pandemic. Unfortunately, diversion occurs frequently and continues to this day.
We work closely with EMS teams to seek alternative tertiary medical sites, depending on the conditions of the patients they are transporting. However, we provide stabilizing care to any patient who personally shows up at our campuses. We urge patients with lesser conditions, or who may simply need a COVID test, to seek treatment from their primary care providers, or visit urgent care services such as Franciscan ExpressCare sites.”Joe Stuteville – Media Relations Manager, Franciscan Health Central Indiana
From IU Health hospitals:
“Like other hospitals, IU Health is facing constraints with staffing. Today our staffing is affected by a continued surge of patients who require treatment for COVID-19 as well as an increase in employees who are sick or in quarantine because of COVID-19. IU Health has hired temporary staff to help in Food Service and team members from non-patient facing departments are temporarily working in patient areas to supplement staff outages.
IU Health’s “I Can Help” app has been an innovative tool in allowing our all of our team members the opportunity to support each other, with the goal of helping mobilize organizational resources to areas of high need.
In addition, IU Health continues to leverage all available resources to support patient care including sharing resources from our hospitals around the state, enlisting members of Indiana’s National Guard, in conjunction with the Indiana Department of Health, and requesting assistance from the United States Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to assist in areas of critical need. Last month a 20-person team from the U.S. Navy arrived to support Indiana University Health Methodist Hospital in Indianapolis. We continue to assess and use all available resources in order to maintain quality and safety of patient care for IU Health patients.
Last year, IU Health launched an internal, premium pay program for nurses and other providers who take 15-week assignments in areas of great need across the hospital system including emergency departments, inpatient and surgical care units. In addition, IU Health has hired more than 600 traveling nurses who are currently working as members of our care teams on a temporary basis.“Sophie Maccagnone – Senior Public Relations Associate, Indiana University Health