The Journal Gazette
Wednesday, December 01, 2021 1:00 am

Vaccines stressed to relieve hospitals

Groups advise amid virus spike in area

NIKI KELLY | The Journal Gazette

INDIANAPOLIS – Three major health care organizations Tuesday urged Hoosiers to get vaccinated to relieve pressure on hospitals as COVID-19 numbers spike again.

This comes as the northeast corner of the state continues to have the highest spread of the virus – with nine counties in red. Red is the worst rating on the state's color-coded map. Only two other counties in the rest of the state are in red.

The Indiana Hospital Association, Indiana State Medical Association and Indiana State Nurses Association are pushing vaccinations as a way to help the health care system and to ensure safe holiday gatherings.

“COVID-19 hospitalizations are rising dramatically in Indiana, increasing 66% over the past three weeks and approaching 75% of the peak of the pandemic Indiana faced last November. In addition to the rapid increase in COVID-19 hospitalizations, in which the vast majority are unvaccinated, hospitals are caring for more critically ill patients than ever before. Clinical data indicates that patients have more complex conditions than before the pandemic and have longer lengths of stay. In addition, emergency room visits are on the rise, which puts further strain on the system. Should the current trends continue, everyone in need of health care could be impacted,” the statement said.

“We urge all Hoosiers who have not yet received a vaccine or who are eligible to get a booster to do so before winter arrives to ensure a hospital bed is available for all in need. The COVID-19 vaccine has proven to be safe and effective at reducing hospitalizations and death and the best way to reduce your risk of serious illness and protect your friends and family is to get vaccinated before gathering for the holidays.”

The state's COVID-19 dashboard Tuesday showed 2,203 people hospitalized with COVID-19 around the state.

The highest ever came at the end of November 2020 at 3,460. The highest in 2021 was 2,676 in September. 

Indiana reported 4,080 new COVID-19 cases Tuesday and 117 new deaths. In Allen County, 13 residents died, and 265 new cases were reported.

There is still bed capacity in the state's intensive care units – about 593 statewide and 85 in the northeast Indiana region.

Parkview Health declined to give specific capacity numbers.

“While we have seen a concerning increase in COVID-19 activity, including hospitalizations, Parkview Health currently has capacity in all hospitals,” spokesperson Tami Brigle said. “We are committed to maintaining operations so we can provide needed care to both COVID-19 patients and patients with other health needs.”

She said 87% of Parkview's hospitalized COVID-19 patients are unvaccinated.

“Our co-workers are our most critical resource. Though there is a national shortage of health care workers, we have plans in place for supplemental staffing, include traveling clinical staff,” Brigle said. “To continue caring for our teams as they care for the community, we've also implemented multiple support programs – especially for those on the frontline – including mental health resources, free meals and childcare assistance.”

Micah Pollak, an associate professor of economics at Indiana University Northwest, has been tracking hospital data the entire pandemic.

He noted in a series of Twitter posts that Indiana had a maximum capacity of about 1,400 ICU beds statewide before the pandemic. But many hospitals have shifted resources to add more beds – bringing that number now to 2,278.

“We've now spent 453 of the last 600 days (76%) with more ICU beds actively in use than the pre-pandemic MAXIMUM CAPACITY,” he posted.

The data comes from the Indiana State Department of Health and includes all people in intensive care units. About half are non-COVID cases; a quarter are COVID-19 patients and a quarter is open.

“Even if health care workers could be fully rested and supported with normal shifts this would be unsustainable. When you add in burnout, lack of resources, sickness and infections, retirements, and so much more it's an absolute catastrophe,” Pollak said.

Almost 53% of Hoosiers eligible for the shot are fully vaccinated.

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