Indiana hospitals make plea to Hoosiers: ‘The situation is dire’

Warning that they are running out of beds and the situation is getting critical, three large hospital systems in central Indiana are pleading with Hoosiers to get vaccinated, boosted, tested and wear masks.

Indiana University Health, Community Health Network and Eskenazi Health rolled out a marketing campaign on Sunday with a stark message: “We can’t do this alone.”

“The situation is dire,” read a full-page ad in The Indianapolis Star on Sunday. “We have more patients in our hospitals than we have beds. We’re converting available units into critical care wards, just to make room. And as you know, healthcare workers across the country are exhausted and running out of steam.”

The campaign includes print, radio, TV and social media outlets.

It’s the latest signal that Indiana hospitals are facing a tipping point in the COVID-19 pandemic that is filling beds around the state.

The ad coincided with news that Indiana health officials identified the first case of the omicron variant of COVID-19 in an unvaccinated Hoosier. The specimen was collected on Dec. 9 and confirmed as an omicron variant by lab tests this past weekend.

Hospitalizations from COVID-19 tripled in recent weeks to 3,029 on Wednesday. By Sunday, the total had slipped a bit to 2,971. The pandemic high was 3,460 on Nov. 20, 2020.

On Monday, state health officials reported that only 16% of intensive care unit beds were available statewide.

“We Can’t Do This Alone” is the name of the marketing campaign, which implores Hoosiers to roll up their sleeves and get fully vaccinated, including a booster shot. The campaign also urges people to get tested if they have symptoms, and inform others with whom they have been in contact.

Yet only about half of Hoosiers have been fully vaccinated, despite months of public service announcements and news stories. Indiana ranks 43rd among all states for the percentage of people fully vaccinated (51.7%), according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Earlier this month, several hospital system confirmed they have begun delaying elective surgeries and procedures again and warned they were operating near full capacity.

Several hospital systems, including Indiana Health and Ascension St. Vincent, have enlisted the Indiana National Guard to help during the latest surge.

Hospitals are also dealing with a severe shortage of nurses and other patient-care professionals, many of whom have retired, quit or taken administrative jobs.

The marketing campaign was organized by Community Health Network, as part of its crisis response to the pandemic, spokeswoman Kris Kirschner said.

She said Community reached out to IU Health, Eskenazi, Franciscan and Ascension St. Vincent.

“IU Health and Eskenazi were able to respond in the short time needed to meet publication deadlines,” she said in an email to IBJ. “As we broaden our scope of messaging, we are hoping other health systems will join us in this campaign.”

Joe Stuteville, media relations manager for Franciscan Health Central Indiana, told IBJ on Monday that the health system fully supported the advertisement that ran in Sunday’s edition of the Star.

“Certainly, Franciscan Health and all local hospitals have worked closely to protect the health and safety of patients, staffs and all Hoosiers throughout the pandemic,” he wrote in an email.

Ascension St. Vincent did not immediately respond to IBJ about why it did not participate in the print advertisement.

The marketing campaign tells Hoosiers that it will take the work of all to turn the pandemic around.

“Our strength is in our ability to come together,” the print ad says. “And it is together that we will finally see our way out of this.”

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