Elkhart and Goshen hospitals continue to be overwhelmed by COVID-19 patients.

Dr. Michelle Bache, vice president of Medical Affairs at Elkhart General Hospital, said Tuesday the hospital had 51 positive cases and were waiting on confirmation for seven more. On Monday, they had 52 positive cases and two deaths.

“We’re still seeing high traffic through our emergency department; high traffic through our drive-through testing here,” she said. And of those being tested, they were seeing a high rate of positive results.

Because the intensive care unit is overflowing, hospital staff have opened another treatment area to accommodate the increased demand. There are 26 beds in ICU, making its capacity 23, Bache explained, adding four of those COVID-19 patients are on ventilators, bringing the total number of people in the ICU on ventilators to seven.

“We’re looking for other areas in the hospital where we can staff and treat patients,” she said. There are several patients who are being treated as ICU patients, just not in the ICU ward. “These are very sick patients who are requiring oxygen,” she said.

For those who think the hospital is claiming COVID to get extra money or who don’t believe it’s as bad as everyone claims, Bache said, “They’re real patients. They are patients who require hospitalization. We are not admitting people who don’t have a need.”

In the seven counties that make up District 2, Bache said hospitalizations have quadrupled in a short period of time. Of the 187 COVID patients who have been hospitalized in District 2, 51 of them are being cared for at Elkhart General Hospital, she said.

Elkhart has such a disproportionate amount of cases per 100,000 people that it is No. 2 in the state, she said.

“It’s surprising to me that there are still people who will make comments: ‘After the election this will all go away. The doctors are falsifying the numbers. There really aren’t that many cases.’ I can promise you these are real patients, and they have real families.”

Why, the doctor asked, would medical professionals overfill the hospital and postpone elective surgeries and procedures like Elkhart is doing just to falsify numbers? “I don’t know how people can reason that way,” she said.

At some point, Bache pointed out, everyone will know someone who has COVID-19 as the virus makes its way through the community.

“Every day it gets worse, and every day we’re trying to figure out where to get the staff,” she said. They are trying to bolster the physician workforce. Surgeries are on a day-by-day basis, with staff postponing some surgeries for those who need an in-patient bed.

Nurses are working with more patients than what is ideal. The hospital is also short on aides and respiratory therapists. She explained that they are trying to find traveling nurses and respiratory therapists to fill those needs.

The crush is affecting every facet of the hospital’s health care teams.

Nurses, doctors and lab staff are out sick as well.

“Please take this seriously and do your part to help us out,” Bache urged the public, reiterating people should wear a mask (and wash it), social distance, wash their hands and stay home if they are sick.

GOSHEN HOSPITAL

Dr. Dan Nafziger, Goshen Hospital chief medical officer and infectious disease specialist, said, “The situation in northern Indiana related to COVID-19 is bad and getting worse. At Goshen Hospital we have had record numbers of admitted patients. We don’t want to discourage people from coming to the hospital for care, but please avoid large groups, practice physical distancing and wear a mask when indoors with anyone who is not part of your household.”

Goshen Hospital is reporting a higher number of COVID-19 patients, particularly those requiring ventilators.

According to a statement from Goshen Health, “Overall, the number of patients has remained in the mid-20s from last week and through the weekend. This last week saw a total of six deaths, the highest number by far for any week.”

Goshen Health’s Chief Nursing Officer Julie Crossley added, “We are very concerned about the record numbers of COVID-19 patients needing intensive care at the hospital. At this time, we are not diverting patients. However, we are in close contact with our hospital partners regarding our current COVID-19 inpatient volumes.”

Nafziger said, “With the colder weather on the way, we continue to worry that more people gathered indoors will increase the spread of COVID-19. By now all the precautions may be like second nature to some of us — and to others, they may be a constant struggle. But please know, your efforts do make a difference — wearing a mask, handwashing and physically distancing.

“Most of our homes aren’t large enough to entertain more than a few people indoors. Staying home if you’re not feeling well is also critically important this cold and flu season — and having a COVID test if the situation warrants it. This has been — and continues to be — a very challenging time for all of us — as individuals, families, medical professionals and communities.”

Dr. Nafziger added, “Many people are worried about how they will deal with feeling more isolated during the winter. Being outside can be critical to our emotional health. Pay attention to how you’re feeling and talk to your provider if you begin to feel depressed. And, reach out to your friends and family who may need your phone call, text or email to remind them you care. We’re still in the middle of this pandemic, but we’re not alone.”

Sheila Selman can be reached at sheila.selman@goshennews.com or 574-533-2151, ext. 240311. Follow Sheila on Twitter @sselman_TGN.

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