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Hospitals becoming overwhelmed by the worsening COVID-19 crisis

A record number of Indiana hospital beds are filled with COVID-19 patients.

FRANKLIN, Ind. — The surge in new COVID-19 cases brings with it a surge in hospital admissions.

Some hospitals are struggling to find the space and staff to care for new patients. 

"In a lot of ways this is what we feared. We are on the brink right now," said Dr. David Dunkle, CEO of Johnson Memorial Health. "If you get a post-Thanksgiving surge, I am not sure we have the resources to really deal with it."

The small suburban hospital is already treating more patients than ever before. Around 30 percent of patients entering its clinic are testing positive for COVID-19.

So many employees are quarantined, that staffing enough doctors and nurses is now the biggest concern.

"We have great staff, but everyone gets stressed. Everyone is working long hours, and sometimes you have to say 'I can't work anymore,'" Dunkle said.

Over the weekend, the hospital was short one doctor and scrambled to fill the need. The nursing staff is already stretched thin.

"Nurses take care of more patients and that's where mistakes happen and that's what we are trying to avoid," he explained. "But in an emergency situation you do what we can and that might mean doing it with less staff."

With so many hospitals looking for extra help, there is a shortage of temporary nurses.

Credit: Johnson Memorial Health

Johnson Memorial converted and equipped more rooms to treat COVID patients. Employees are being reassigned to areas where they are needed most.

"What keeps me awake at night, is not being able to provide the care that I need to," Dunkle said. "To be so overwhelmed with patients that we are stressing nurses to a point that mistakes happen."

A record number of Indiana hospital beds are filled with COVID-19 patients. Through Nov. 29, 3,401 patients were hospitalized and 968 of those patients were in the intensive care unit. That is 17 more ICU patients than the day before and more ICU patients than any other time in the pandemic.