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13 WTHR Indianapolis | Indianapolis Local News & Weather

Hospitals workers urged to conserve testing supplies, patients screened outside facilities

The state is working on a new effort to determine if people are sick enough to go to the ER in hopes of keeping emergency services for those who need it most.

BOONE COUNTY, Ind. (WTHR) — Sick Hoosiers lined up for screening outside of Witham Health Services in Whitestown.

It’s a new effort by the satellite hospital to determine if people are sick enough to go to the ER before they head into the 16-bed facility in Boone County.

According to Gene Davis, Witham’s Infection Control director, staff at both Witham locations have evaluated more than 140 people so far.

Virtual screenings are done outside the hospital to determine a patient's severity in Boone County. (WTHR/Sandra Chapman)

“Do they need to go home, or do they need to seek additional medical care? “ he asked.

It's a new step to help keep emergency services for those who need it most. And it helps the Witham staff to conserve medical supplies.

"That is always a concern," Davis said. "Right now we have supplies and we're monitoring our supplies and we're trying to be prudent with what we do have and use them wisely."

All across the country health care workers have reported a shortage of masks.

But workers tell 13 Investigates the actual items necessary to conduct coronavirus testing are in short supply too.

In an email one workers wrote: "It is very frustrating for those of us working to help people everyday without the tools needed. In order to obtain the specimen from a patient we have to have the proper swab/collection tube. Those are also on back order due to a shortage. We still won’t be able to test the volume of patients needed without those."

Indiana's top health official is aware of the problem.

“We have limited amounts of viral swaps, viral transport media and the personal protective equipment,” said Dr Kristine Box, state health commissioner.

It's why Dr. Box is doubling down and urging those with mild symptoms to stay home and out of local emergency rooms.

She's also asking hospital staff to conserve the equipment as much as possible, as the state tries to temporarily refill some of the gaps.

“A couple of (the hospitals) are getting into that area where we're concerned that in the next 96 hours or so they could start to run short of certain things,” the commissioner said. “We know what they are experiencing and what they're needs are and how those needs change on a minute to minute basis."

All Indiana hospitals have provided up-to-date assessments on their facilities. The amount of supplies and other issues facing the facilities are updated at least twice a day. And while the state can provide some assistance it can't fully restock every hospital in need.

Witham Health Services will continue screenings at both its Lebanon and Whitestown sites indefinitely.