INDIANAPOLIS — NOTE: The above video is from a previous report on IU Health requesting assistance from the Indiana National Guard.
IU Health is reporting an all-time high number of COVID-19 patients being treated in its hospitals. The hospital system is caring for 518 COVID patients. To put that in perspective, the summer/fall peak was 459 and the previous high from last winter was 517.
Of the current COVID-19 patients, 339 of those are in the ICU. IU Health added beds to care for the COVID patients needing ICU-level care.
“We have been able to scale up ICU beds and ventilators, but we have not been able to scale up people,” said Dr. Gabriel Bosslet with IU Health at Thursday’s hearing on House Bill 1001.
Last week, IU Health requested assistance from the National Guard for most of its hospitals, except Riley Hospital for Children.
"As COVID cases continue to increase and hospitalization of COVID and non-COVID patients reach all-time highs, the demand and strain on Indiana University Health’s team members, nurses and providers has never been greater," IU Health said in a statement at the time.
Statewide, the numbers aren’t much better. As of Thursday, only 12.5 percent of ICU beds were available. It’s the least amount of capacity at any point in the pandemic.
Doctors say between the delta variant and people putting off surgeries and other procedures, it’s created an explosion of patients.
“This is the worst surge we’ve had, and I hope I’ll never have to say that again,” said Dr. Ram Yeleti with Community Health Network.
But with the threat of the highly contagious omicron variant, Yeleti said he is worried about what’s to come.
Currently, no cases have been confirmed in Indiana, but almost all of the surrounding states have at least one case except Kentucky.
“It’s just going to be a matter of weeks before omicron takes over Indiana,” he said.
When it does, health experts say it will spread fast.
“They are suggesting it’s almost as contagious as chickenpox. If that’s the case, we are in trouble and my problem is we can’t create any more beds. We can’t create any more nurses,” Yeleti said.
The Indiana National Guard is now supporting 13 of IU Health's 16 hospitals and will be deployed to two more next week.
The National Guard teams deployed at hospitals are comprised of two clinical and four non-clinical service members, and deployments are in two-week increments. The clinical service members can treat patients while the other members support the staff.
"I've really heard great things about them pitching in, all hands on deck and doing whatever is asked of them," said Dr. Chris Weaver, IU Health's chief clinical officer.
Unlike last winter, Calkins said health care workers are short-staffed and very burnt out.
"We are tired. Our people are incredibly tired. We were watching the numbers go down and to have them turn back around and start going up again is just about the most disheartening thing that I can imagine," he said.
Right now, only 53% of eligible Hoosiers are fully vaccinated. At this point, health leaders are calling it a pandemic among the unvaccinated.
"We're delaying a lot of surgeries, probably several thousand people are in line to have surgery that can't be operated on right now because of our COVID numbers," Calkins said.
Health leaders say the best form of protection is still the vaccine and the booster. The CDC recommends everyone get either the Pfizer or Moderna booster.
13News also reached out to the Indiana Department of Health for comment on the recent surge but has not heard back yet.