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Indy-area hospitals launch campaign telling public they're at breaking point

"It's a lot different than the first go-around in 2020," said one physician.

INDIANAPOLIS — The Indiana National Guard is set to arrive at Eskenazi Hospital on Monday to try to help relieve some of the pressure from staffing shortages emerging from the latest surge in COVID-19 cases.

The hospital's executive medical director says staff is exhausted, and some are getting sick themselves, as they head into what's expected to be a difficult new year because of the highly-contagious new omicron variant.

Three Indiana hospitals systems have the same message this week.

"It's a breaking point," said Eskenazi's Dr. Graham Carlos, emphasizing health care workers have reached that point. "It's a lot different than the first go-around in 2020."

Hospitals, including Eskenazi, are currently short-staffed, and those on the front lines say it's largely because employees themselves getting sick, as COVID patient counts are going up again.

"Our staff is developing breakthrough infections, so they've been vaxed and boosted, but they're testing positive, which we know can happen with omicron, and then, they can't work," Carlos said.

Now, a new surge in COVID cases has already-full hospitals looking for help.

"I'm receiving calls from all over Indiana, including some from Kentucky and Illinois, asking, begging for us to take patients in critical care transfer because there's simply no beds, no access to critical care," said Carlos.

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Carlos said he has had to say no to transfer requests lately because of staffing shortages and less available space.

"I find myself saying 'I'm so sorry, I wish we could help you, but we are simply out of that resource right now. This is the best we can do, is offer you a wait list — and they still take it,'" he explained. "It's COVID. It's respiratory failure. It doesn't matter to me if it's omicron or delta, it's patients that need oxygen, need ventilators, ICU care and can't find it around the state and our neighboring states."

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Despite the road ahead, though, Carlos said health care professionals are still showing up, taking extra shifts and going above and beyond what they signed up for.

"They're giving all of themselves for others, which is honorable, and I see it every day," he said.

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