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National Guard Deployed To 3 Indiana Hospitals As Pandemic Surges

(Oregon National Guard/Flickr)
Members of the Oregon National Guard learn room cleaning protocols from a nursing assistant at Mercy Medical Center in Roseburg, Ore. in August 2021 as part of an effort to help Oregon hospitals due to reported increased COVID cases and staff shortages.

Indiana National Guard members are assisting three hospitals as increased COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths stretch the capacity of overworked and understaffed hospitals even thinner. It’s part of an effort to help hospitals provide care and prevent further pandemic related restrictions.

Members from the guard’s Hospital Crisis Response Team are at Ascension St. Vincent Hospital on 86th Street in Indianapolis, Clark Memorial Hospital in Jeffersonville, and Deaconess Hospital in Evansville. About 16 division members are at each hospital.

Lt. Samantha Hatfield, guard officer in charge of the Hospital Crisis Response Team, said members will assist hospitals for seven-day assignments with the ability to be extended for two weeks.

In a statement, the Indiana Department of Health said guard teams were deployed to hospitals that had exhausted other staffing options.

The guard members at the hospitals include medical professionals that can provide patient care, COVID-19 testing or vaccine administration. Other team members are expected to restock supplies, clean rooms or transport patients. All members sent to hospitals are fully vaccinated and trained how to properly use personal protective equipment, according to the Indiana National Guard.

Some industry leaders have warned hospital capacity is worse than it appears because of historic staffing shortages. Earlier this month, Jeffrey Bird, the president of IU Health East Central Region, said multiple hospitals were in “full crisis mode.”

A shortage of nurses has been a concern for years. However, the pandemic appears to have accelerated this trend — nurses who delayed retirement in the face of COVID-19 are finishing their careers, or some choose to retire early.

Alaska and Idaho recently implemented “crisis standards of care” regulations amid a surge in COVID-19 hospitalizations filling hospital beds. This means hospitals triage care to who is most likely to survive -- which can include denying care to some patients.

Gov. Eric Holcomb previously deployed the National Guard to long-term care facilities last year
to assist staff in non-clinical roles.

WFIU reporter Brock E. W. Turner contributed to this report.

Contact Side Effects reporter Carter Barrett at Follow on Twitter: @carter_barrett.

Carter is a reporter based at WFYI in Indianapolis, Indiana. A long-time Hoosier, she is thrilled to stay in her hometown to cover public health. Previously, she covered education for WFYI News with a focus on school safety. Carter graduated with a journalism degree from Indiana University, and previously interned with stations in Bloomington, Indiana and Juneau, Alaska.