INDIANAPOLIS — So far in the state of Indiana, more than 19,000 Hoosiers have died from COVID-19. The recent rise in cases, hospitalizations and deaths is straining our health care systems — sometimes in ways we don't often see.
Eskenazi Health said its hospital isn't just running low on beds for patients, but is also running low on space in the morgue.
It's a dark and grim reality hospitals are facing.
"We just wanted to be planning and preparing ahead in the event that we do have excess deaths, that we are ready," said Dr. Graham Carlos, executive medical director of Eskenazi Hospital.
That's why a few weeks ago, Eskenazi purchased a refrigerated truck to serve as overflow for the morgue. So far, it's something the hospital hasn't had to use and calls it a worst-case situation.
"As far as I know, we never had to take these types of measures to be prepared for excess deaths. This is a first," Carlos said.
Right now, the numbers don't show any signs of slowing down. In the past few weeks, the state has been averaging more than 50 COVID-related deaths a day. That's on top of the record-high homicide rate in Indianapolis and Hoosiers putting off care throughout the pandemic.
This has forced hospitals to get creative with space.
"We increased capacity by using spaces such as perioperative spaces, endoscopy, to try to care for more patients," Carlos said.
But despite these new challenges, Carlos said health care workers continue to provide the best care they can.
"Even though you might see things like those trucks that we talked about, it doesn't mean people aren't going to get exceptional care here and they shouldn't be worried about that," Carlos said.
An IU Health spokesperson said they previously purchased mobile morgues a while ago in case any of its hospitals needed one. 13News was informed Jan. 14 that one of the mobile morgues was in use at Eskenazi.
Also, Community Hospital East is dealing with a different capacity issue. It started using its ambulance garages for patient care because of the record number of people in need of medical help.