Local hospitals prepare for surge in coronavirus patients

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. — As of Monday, Indiana reported over 1,700 confirmed cases of COVID-19, and hospitals believe this is only the beginning.

“We believe Indiana's COVID patient surge will begin soon, and peak surge is expected to be mid-April to mid-May,” said Dr. Jennifer Sullivan, secretary of the Indiana Family and Social Services Administration.

Since March 1, Indiana has added about 500 ICU beds, bringing the total from 1,432 to 1,940. About 60% of those already in use. The goal now is for hospitals to double capacity.

“Every hospital and hospital system in Indiana has been working on a surge plan, and we have been discussing those plans as a cross sector group,” Dr. Sullivan said

Part of that plan is to transform other hospital space into ICU areas. By stopping elective surgery, other rooms and facilities can be turned into ICUs. For example, IU Health is moving more of their younger patients to Riley to make space in hospitals across the region.

“That allows us to take the neonatal intensive care and other pediatric spaces and turn those into adult intensive care spaces, and really expand our capacity for those patients,” said Dr. Chris Weaver, an emergency physician with IU Health.

Plans also call for more equipment. At the beginning of March, the state had 1,177 ventilators. The goal is double that. There is now a statewide resource pool for hospitals, who are also finding resourceful ways to make more.

“As we mentioned stopping elective surgery, that allows us to have some anesthesia machines that we can re-purpose (to) use as ventilators," Dr. Chris Weaver said. "They have that capability.”

There is also now a statewide pool of healthcare workers. Providers in other areas of practice, medical students at local schools, and even retired clinicians are being called to help. So far, more than 5,000 have stepped forward.

“As we see the surge coming, we see a true surge of Hoosier kindness, love and generosity,” said Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb.

While state health officials hope none of this will be needed, they are preparing for the worst. They’re asking Hoosiers at home now to do the same.

“We said that every hospital has a disaster plan in place. Those plans include decision-making for individuals and family members," said Dr. Lindsay Weaver, chief medical officer with the Indiana State Department of Health.

"It is just as important now as it always is, to talk to your family and your loved ones about what your wishes would be if you fall ill and not be able to speak for yourself. It’s time to have that conversation now.”

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