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Staff shortages, COVID patients afflict local hospitals

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11/17/2021 IU Arnett and Franciscan Hospital, Dr. C. Mansfield and Dr. D. Wickert

Dr. Christopher Mansfield (left), a hospitalist and associate chief medical officer at IU Arnett, and Dr. Daniel Wickert (right), an obstetrician-gynecologist at Franciscan Health, discuss COVID-19 cases at their hospitals.

IU Arnett hospital has had waiting lines for its emergency room for over a week because of the number of COVID-19 patients and nursing staff shortages, hospital staff said.

Local officials from IU Arnett and Franciscan hospitals gave updated reports on rates of COVID-19 in their establishments during a virtual meeting Tuesday.

“What we saw maybe six months or a year ago, that average age was higher,” said Dr. Christopher Mansfield, a hospitalist and associate chief medical officer at IU Arnett. “That average age is much lower now, at least that’s what we’re seeing as far as in our ICU, we’ve been jam packed, just like Franciscan.”

“I’d love to put every patient that comes into IU Arnett hospital into a hospital bed right away, but that's just not possible. We have staffing challenges (and) specific nursing staffing challenges.”

Mansfield said that they’ve had to place patients in a number of different places due to a shortage of beds.

“We have holds at times, patients holding in the ER,” he said. “Over the last week we’ve been holding every morning. When you’re holding before the day even starts, that’s a little bit problematic.”

He said that the hospital is simply overworked.

“From a flow perspective, optimal flow is when you have about 85% or less of your hospital full,” Mansfield said, “and when you’re battling with 95% or more of your hospital full, flow kind of stops.”

Dr. Daniel Wickert, an obstetrician-gynecologist at Franciscan hospitals said COVID-19 rates were encouraging last week, as there were only eight to 10 positive individuals in the hospital being treated. However, this week, the numbers more than doubled to 23 positive COVID-19 cases in their care.

In terms of the patients' care, Wickert said one third of the positive 23 patients are in the ICU.

Out of the patients, Wickert said all but one are unvaccinated.

“They’re just not vaccinated,” he said. “The numbers clearly indicate, at least from a hospital standpoint, that vaccination makes a huge difference.”

The length of the hospital stay is also noticeably longer for those infected with COVID-19, Wickert said. A COVID-19 patient’s stay is about 13 days, while the typical medical patient not diagnosed with COVID-19 has a 4.3 to 4.5 day range of stay.

“I talked to Dr. Bolen a little bit having been the former county health officer and, you know, looking at the numbers last week in the community, they seemed like every day they almost doubled,” said Lisa Decker, moderator and vice president of marketing and communication at Franciscan Health.

Wickert said he doesn’t know why the COVID-19 cases spiked so suddenly this week. He cannot explain what happened in reference to how the COVID-19 causes “doubled over the past week.”

“We are seeing those numbers go up on a daily count from Tippecanoe County and also within the state,” he said. “I don’t know where we’re headed.”

Mansfield said the main questions they’re working to solve are “‘What’s going on with the booster? What’s going on with monoclonal antibody infusions? And how do we best serve the community and work together?’”

The “vast majority” of the COVID-19 patients are “unvaccinated and they’re relatively young,” he said.

Wickert and Mansfield both recommended that eligible individuals get the booster shots that are available to them.

“We remain here to care for the community as does Franciscan and we’ll continue to work together,” Mansfield said. “To do so we are encouraging people that are eligible to get the monoclonal antibody infusions.

“I would encourage people that are eligible to get the COVID booster shots that are now available.”

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