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Burnout among health care workers increasing with hospitals still short-staffed, over capacity

Health care workers are feeling the strain from the latest COVID surge.

INDIANAPOLIS — Like many health care systems, Community Hospital East is feeling the strain from the latest COVID surge. Currently, it's all hands on deck to continue caring for patients.  

"Our nurses and our caregivers have been battling this for 18 long, long months and they are getting really burned out. They are getting exhausted," said Dr. Ram Yeleti, chief physician executive for Community Health Network. 

On Tuesday, Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett stopped at the hospital to show his support and say, "thank you." He spoke with doctors, nurses and caregivers in the ICU and emergency departments. 

After seeing the crisis firsthand, he once again urged Hoosiers to get vaccinated. 

"It's not just an individual decision that's affecting one person, it actually has a ripple effect across the entire health care system," Hogsett said. "Seventeen months ago, when we first engaged the pandemic, all health care workers were considered heroes. They still are. They have been working under extraordinary circumstances."

In the last week, the number of new cases in Indiana have started to slowly stabilize.

"In the past three, four days they have actually come down just a bit. So, I am really hoping that we are turning at this point, but I am not 100 percent sure," Yeleti said.

RELATED: Indiana National Guard deployed to Indianapolis hospital to assist with patients

Credit: Community Health Network
Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hosett meets with health care workers at Community Hospital East to thank them for their work during the pandemic.

Despite the small dip in cases, bed capacity in hospitals remains high and, in some cases, are completely full.  

On Tuesday, Community Health Network had close to 150 unvaccinated patients in their hospitals. As a result, the majority of elective procedures are being delayed because of a lack of space. Doctors say it's putting a strain on the system.  

"Obviously, if you are a patient that's just been told you have cancer, you don't want to be told to wait a couple of weeks. Even though it might be safe, that's still pretty scary," Yeleti said. 

Health care workers are also feeling the strain. Usually, an ICU nurse takes care of one patient. Now, it's sometimes between two or three.

RELATED: US hospitals hit with nurse staffing crisis amid COVID

"Then on top of that, to be very honest, some of these are COVID patients that are unvaccinated. Some of them still don't trust the health care system. So, they tend to be a little more defensive to our nurses and our doctors," Yeleti said.  

Health leaders say the only way out of this surge is to get more people vaccinated.  

"It's very real. I can't stress enough how real it is," Yeleti said.  

To provide some relief for caregivers, Community started a program called "Helping Hands." Any employee — director level and above — is asked to help out around the hospitals with cleaning, restocking and assisting in patient care.

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