Beacon Health On Bearing The Brunt Of The COVID-19 Surge: 'It's About To Become A Catastrophe'

Nov 13, 2020

Beacon Health System hospitals in Elkhart and South Bend are beginning to feel the strain as COVID-19 cases continue surging statewide.
Credit (Justin Hicks/IPB News)

Hoosier hospitals are bearing the brunt of Indiana’s surging COVID-19 case numbers. 

Dr. Dale Patterson with Beacon Health System hospitals in the Elkhart-South Bend area said it feels like hospitals are constantly breaking records with the number of patients being treated for COVID-19.

Patterson said hospitals within the network have been on diversion, meaning they can’t accept ambulances, at times during the last couple of weeks. He said Beacon hospitals currently can’t take transfers, which is something they normally do – and having to implement those types of orders affects the quality of care residents in the area receive. COVID-19 is straining the system, he said. 

“I don’t know what worst-case scenario looks like,” Patterson said. “I think we’re in the middle of a crisis that’s about to become a catastrophe.” 

Currently, 2,548 Hoosiers are hospitalized with the virus. That’s 180 percent higher than it was when the state moved to Stage 5 of its reopening plan.

Patterson said staff wants to help as many patients as possible, and will continue to do as much as they’re able to. But he said eventually, there’s a limit to how much a hospital can take and how much staff can do. 

“The main concern right now is staffing, you know, we can make more space, we can open up more beds, but we don’t have nurses, we don’t have respiratory therapists that we can call in to staff those beds,” he said. “It’s becoming more and more stressful to them as they work longer hours for a longer amount of time as this goes on for seven to eight months now.”

With the increasing number of patients seeking care dealing with COVID-19, he said other procedures – planned weeks, or even months in advance – have to be delayed. 

"At Memorial, we've opened an expansion to our ICU, and we've moved into a surgical area, and we've closed half of our surgery rooms, to accommodate ICU patients. We're over our ICU amounts now," he said. 

Patterson said currently Memorial Hospital in South Bend is only performing emergency procedures because of those accommodations. 

“So we understand that the care the community is getting is being diminished because of the strain patients with COVID are putting on the health system,” Patterson said. “And we’re doing the best we can to provide as much care to everyone and trying to make the right choices for who gets the care and who doesn’t, but that’s becoming increasingly stressful and increasingly difficult.”

Contact reporter Bárbara at banguiano@lakeshorepublicmedia or follow her on Twitter at @radiospice219.