Witham Health prepares for the unthinkable in Boone County

Boone County Fairgrounds. (WTHR Photo/Rich Van Wyk)
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BOONE COUNTY, Ind. (WTHR) – Witham Hospital in Boone County, like many others across Indiana, is preparing for what a few weeks ago was the unthinkable.

“We think we are pretty well prepared,” President and CEO Dr. Ray Ingham said. “That being said, what we are preparing for we don’t have any concept of what would happen.”

Dr. Ingham said the hospital increased its available beds by almost a third to 100. And also expanded the capacity of its ICU, but even that might not be enough.

“We think we would double if not triple our ICU and probably have to expand into the community at the fairgrounds,” Ingham said.

At the Boone County Fairgrounds, workers have prepared one of its biggest buildings to become an overflow hospital.

There is room for 100 beds and the ability to expand into other buildings. The so-called hospital of last resort can be ready for patients with just 36 hours’ notice.

“It certainly won’t be as pleasant as a being in a hospital room but they will get good medical treatment,” Ingham said.

He worries about having enough staff and having enough personal protection equipment to keep doctors and nurses healthy.

“The third thing I worry about is an over extension of my team to the point they dedicate themselves and they get sick,” he explained.

But the community is responding to pleas for help. Dentists and even painters have donated scarce PPE to keep health care workers healthy.