State officials are renewing their call for retired health care workers to help relieve staff in Indiana's hospitals and long-term care facilities as the number of hospitalizations and new infections across the state continue to spike at record highs.
Indiana State Health Commissioner Dr. Kris Box said Wednesday that hospitals and healthcare workers in Indiana are swamped, “needing support now more than ever.”
The state’s hospitals are currently seeing more coronavirus patients than at any other time in the pandemic. There were 2,070 Hoosiers hospitalized with COVID-19 as of Saturday, according to the state's online coronavirus dashboard. Roughly 70% of the Indiana's intensive care unit beds were in use.
“This all takes an incredible toll,” Box said during a news conference. “The greatest strain right now is on our hospital workforce, which is in the ninth month of responding to this pandemic, and facing the greatest patient load yet. They are, frankly, exhausted.”
Staffing issues continue to be the greatest challenge, Box said, especially as health care workers in high-spread areas of the state require to be quarantined after exposure to an infected person outside the workplace. The health department is now talking to hospital leadership about ways to better juggle staffing, but Box said there's still a need for additional reservists who would be “willing to serve.”
Still, hospitals are not short on personal protective equipment, putting them in a better position than they were this spring, said Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb, who has continued to resist calls for reinstating coronavirus restrictions: "We have the capacity to care right now. When we start to lose that capacity to care, then we’re going to have to become more and more restrictive.”
Last month, state officials announced more than 1,300 members of Indiana’s National Guard were being deployed to the 133 hardest hit long-term care centers to assist with infection control practices like improved COVID-19 testing for facility residents and employees. That support — meant, in part, to relieve health care staff — will then expand to all 534 nursing homes in Indiana over the next three weeks, Adjutant General, Brig. Gen. Dale Lyles said. The extra help will be available until Dec. 31.
Both Box and Holcomb said Wednesday they appreciate all that health care workers are doing, but emphasized that Hoosiers, too, should extend their gratitude by wearing masks, practicing social distancing and washing their hands.