Federal officials are sending a 23-person U.S. Navy team to Indiana’s largest hospital to help relieve staffers exhausted and overwhelmed by a surge in COVID-19 hospitalizations.
The U.S. Army North in San Antonio said Monday that medical personnel from the Navy team, including physicians, nurses and respiratory therapists, will travel to IU Health Methodist Hospital, just north of downtown Indianapolis, at the request of the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
The Indiana Department of Health told the Indianapolis Business Journal that the hospital would receive four doctors, 14 nurses, two registered technicians and three administrative staffers.
The hospital’s parent, Indiana University Health, had requested staffing assistance from FEMA.
IU Health spokeswoman Lisa Tellus said the Navy team will work at the hospital for 30 days, starting this week, and be integrated into its medical units “in areas of greatest need."
The move comes as Indiana's hospitals have warned that they are running out of beds amid a surge in COVID hospitalizations that has left patient-care workers exhausted.
Indiana's hospitalizations from COVID-19 had tripled in recent weeks to 3,029 on Dec. 15. By Monday, that total stood at 3,002. The pandemic high was 3,460 on Nov. 20, 2020.
State health officials reported Monday that only 16% of intensive care unit beds were available statewide.
Several hospital systems, including IU Health and Ascension St. Vincent, have enlisted the Indiana National Guard for help during the latest surge.
On Sunday, three large hospital systems, including IU Health, placed a full-page ad in The Indianapolis Star pleading with Hoosiers to get vaccinated, boosted and tested, and to wear masks.
“The situation is dire,” read the ad, which coincided with the news that Indiana health officials identified the first case of the omicron variant of COVID-19 in an unvaccinated Hoosier.
“We have more patients in our hospitals than we have beds. We’re converting available units into critical care wards, just to make room," the ad said, also stating that health care workers “are exhausted and running out of steam.”
Indiana has the nation’s ninth-lowest COVID-19 vaccination rate for a fully vaccinated population at 51.7%, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.