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IU Health requests assistance from Indiana National Guard as hospitalizations reach all-time high

Riley Children's Hospital is the only IU Health hospital which did not request assistance.

INDIANAPOLIS — Indiana University Health announced Thursday that it has requested assistance from the National Guard in nearly all of its hospitals due to an increase in hospitalizations.

"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.

Riley Children's Hospital is the only IU Health hospital which did not request assistance.

Currently, IU Health is treating about 430 COVID-19 patients in its hospitals, which is slightly higher than the last surge in August and September.  

"We've already beaten the surge from the late summer, early fall of this year. We are not far from our January levels now," said Dr. Paul Calkins, associate chief medical executive for IU Health. 

RELATED: 6 states, including Indiana, account for half of country's recent COVID-19 hospitalizations

An NBC News analysis released Wednesday of U.S. Department of Health and Human Services data found that Indiana is one of six states that currently accounts for the majority of the increase in patients hospitalized with COVID-19 over the last two weeks.

IU Health said it is enlisting members of Indiana's National Guard to assist in areas of critical need in conjunction with the Indiana Department of Health.

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, Dr. 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.  

RELATED: Health departments report shortage of COVID-19 rapid tests

"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.  

Even though hospitals are strained, IU Health leaders assure Hoosiers that the level of care has not changed. 

When asked if the vaccine mandate affected the number of employees at IU Health, Weaver said it had a "minimal impact."

Currently, 13 Indiana hospitals are receiving assistance from the National Guard and the state expects more to be added next week.

As of Thursday, the National Guard is supporting the following hospitals: 

  • Marion General
  • Memorial Hospital in South Bend
  • Logansport State Hospital
  • Evansville State Hospital
  • Goshen Health
  • IU Health Ball Memorial
  • Deaconess-Gateway
  • Deaconess-Midtown
  • IU Health Paoli
  • IU Health Bloomington
  • IU Health Morgan
  • IU Health Bedford
  • IU Health Saxony

Statement from the Indiana National Guard

"Indiana National Guardsmen stand ready, as part of our dual role to state and nation, to help our fellow Americans and Hoosiers. In that spirit, when called upon, we assist hospital staffs with six-person teams. 

The teams typically include two medics, who help with vital sign collection, assisting nurses with IVs and blood collections, and the additional four team members, who assist with non-patient care duties such as room cleaning, delivering food trays, paperwork and restocking supplies. 

The jobs and tasks above are just some examples of what our Hospital Recovery Support Teams can do, but specifics vary according to need and demand. Additionally, teams are slated to help for one week, but could be extended if hospitals request the additional staffing through the Indiana Department of Health's below."

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