Since Oct. 1, the number of patients hospitalized for COVID-19 treatment in northeast Indiana has tripled as both the region and the state sees rising cases and shrinking hospital capacity.

Statewide, the number of patients being treated for COVID-19 more than double as the percentage of patients in treatment in intensive care units has been steadily rising.

Hospitals are holding the line on available capacity, but it appears that they're doing so by reducing the number of non-COVID patients they're caring for.

State health officials said hospital systems are already being strained and are reacting by starting to cancel non-emergency procedures and surgeries in order to maintain bed space for the flood of incoming COVID-19 patients.

In Health District 3, which covers LaGrange, DeKalb, Noble, Steuben, Allen and Whitley counties and five other counties to the south of those, the number of patients in treatment for COVID-19 has gone from 94 on Oct. 1 to 306 as of Nov. 10.

It's been a steady rise over the last month-plus, as hospitals serving northeast Indiana have seen the percentage of ICU beds occupied by COVID-19 patients rise from 11.9% to 27%.

ICU bed capacity has been holding, fluctuating up and down as patients are cleared or die. On Oct. 1, 20.9% of ICU beds in northeast Indiana were open, which rose a bit to 23.9% as of Oct. 31 but has since shrunk to 15.8% as of Nov. 10.

With the number of COVID-19 patients going up, maintenance of bed space appears to be occurring by hospital systems shedding other types of patients.

The percentage of ICU beds serving non-COVID patients has declined from 67.2% on Oct. 1 to 57.2% as of this week.

Statewide, the trends are similar — the total hospital census in Indiana has risen from 963 patients on Oct. 1 to 2,544 as of Nov. 10 and the percentage of ICU beds in use by COVID-19 patients has risen from 13.1% at the state or October to 30% as of Tuesday.

Statewide ICU bed capacity has dropped from 33.4% on Oct. 1 to 26.3% this week, a berth that has been kept open by reducing non-COVID patients. The percentage of beds in use by patients not being treated for coronavirus has fallen from 53.5% on Oct. 1 to 43.7% this week.

Fort Wayne hospitals were raising the alarm earlier this week noting the troubling increases they've seen recently.

“Like hospitals across the state of Indiana, Parkview Health is experiencing a sharp increase in the number of patients hospitalized with COVID-19. In the past several weeks, our COVID-19 hospitalizations have more than tripled,” Dr. Jeff Boord, M.D., chief quality and safety officer, Parkview Health, said.

Similarly, Lutheran Health Network (LHN) is expressing concern over rising COVID-19 numbers.

“The number and severity of cases in our area escalated very quickly. As of this morning, (November 6) Lutheran Health Network hospitals are caring for 107 patients with COVID-19. We are prepared to expand our capacity, if and as needed,” Dr. Vishal Bhatia, MD, MBA, regional chief medical officer, Lutheran Health Network, said.

Goshen Hospital, which is in state Health District 2, indicated earlier this week that it is having to transfer some patients to other hospitals due to a lack of space in its facilities.

Local hospitals have said they have the ability to expand their capacity to handle a surge, but that entails reallocating space and staff to serve those temporary wards and drains resources from other normal operations.

On Nov. 11, Indiana State Health Commissioner Dr. Kris Box said that several hospitals across the state have already gone on diversion, sending non-critical patients to other facilities, and that hospitals are starting to delay procedures and repurpose temporary space to build capacity.

"They are making changes in those scheduled procedures and surgeries to make sure they have the staff and beds they need to take care of the sick patients that come in," Box said. That doesn't just cover COVID-19 patients but also other patients in need for emergencies like heart attacks, strokes, cancer, etc. "It's critical we want every Hoosier to be able to get the best care for whatever their health care problem is.

"We're also seeing people changing different parts of their hospitals," to build temporary space, Box said. "We are seeing hospitals work together in a region to be able to transfer patients or alternate who takes the next critical patient who is picked up by EMS."

Those were plans that were developed and put into use back in April and May and, unfortunately, Box said, they're being needed again now.
©Copyright 2021 KPC Media Group, Inc.