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Surge in COVID-19 cases overwhelms Indianapolis hospitals

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — IU Health says it has more COVID-19 patients under its care than ever before, and Eskenazi Health, Ascension St. Vincent, and Community Health Network are also dealing with disturbing numbers of people with the coronavirus.

The system currently has 518 COVID-19 patients, including 339 in the intensive care unit. Members of the Indiana National Guard were requested for assistance. Guard members are currently at 13 out of 16 hospitals. Members will be added to two more hospitals next week. Help was was not requested for Riley Children’s Hospital.

“The most effective way to reduce infection and prevent serious illness is to get a COVID-19 vaccine and booster when eligible. We encourage anyone 5 and older to get vaccinated as soon as possible,” a representative for IU Health hospitals said Friday.

Indiana’s COVID-19 hospitalizations have topped 3,000 people for the first time in nearly a year.

The number of beds available in intensive care units (ICUs) is dwindling. The majority of IU Health’s patients are in ICUs.

According to Dr. Graham Carlos, an intensive care physician at Eskenazi Health, the hospital has around 333 beds and they’re treating more than 50 COVID-19 patients, “and that number keeps changing and growing.”

“There hasn’t been the break or the time off that we used to need and need,” Carlos said.

“We are simply like many hospitals out of beds. We have people that are in the emergency department that are admitted that need care in the hospital, but we have to wait for others to be discharged, so they can be moved up to get in,” Carlos said.

Carlos says around 90% of their COVID-19 patients are unvaccinated.

Ascension St. Vincent Hospital says they’re also facing some challenges. In November, they treated a total of 824 COVID-19 patients and so far for December they’ve had a total of 851 COVID-19 patients and the month is only half-over.

Christopher Belcher. the infection prevention medical director at Ascension St. Vincent, said, “It is overwhelming and again we’ve been dealing with this for coming up on a couple of years already and we’ve seen different waves and spikes and it’s hard when you’re in the middle of a wave.”

Dr. Ram Yeleti, chief physician executive at Community Health Network, says it’s above 100% capacity. He says for the past few days they’ve had about 190 COVID-19 patients and more than 90% are unvaccinated.

“That’s roughly 1 in every 5 beds for our hospital and to put that in perspective we were on 1 of every 20 beds just a few weeks ago, so it’s really causing a strain on the system right now,” Yeleti said.

Doctors say the best way to protect yourself and others from COVID-19 infection is still to get vaccinated.

“We’re really asking the public to do their best to again go to the right place for the right type of care you need, do video visits, go to primary care doctors, go to the emergency room if you feel like it’s something life threatening like a heart attack, or a stroke, or appendicitis, make sure to do that. But try to find the right care. Don’t go to the emergency room just for a COVID test. There’s a lot of places to get testing. So, try to go to the right place to try to reserve the highest risk for the emergency rooms. We’re just doing the best we can with this right now,” Yeleti said.