Hospital Diversions Don't Mean Patients Can't Seek Emergency Care

Nov 19, 2020

In front of Indiana University Health's Methodist Hospital, signs direct emergency room patients if they are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms.
Credit (Lauren Chapman/IPB News)

As COVID-19 numbers continue to surge across the state, more hospitals are forced to send non-emergency patients elsewhere. But that doesn’t mean local hospitals will stop caring for patients needing urgent care. 

You might hear the terms "diversion" and "bypass" when talking about hospitals during this pandemic. This means hospitals are very limited or have very limited resources to take in patients who need to stay overnight. Hoosier hospitals are seeing record hospitalization and lack of resources to help take care of those patients, especially staff.

Hospitals such as Memorial Hospital in South Bend cannot currently accept transfers from other hospitals and have had to reschedule some elective surgeries. 

But no matter how full a hospital, Sarah Jones is the chief nursing officer with Franciscan Health in Michigan City. She said regardless of a hospital’s diversion status, ambulances will still take patients to the nearest hospital – especially if timing is critical, like a heart attack for example. Patients can also still seek urgent medical care there, too. 

“Please, if you do have a concern that you feel warrants treatment, don’t put it off because of fear of COVID,” Jones said. 

Jones said laws such as 1987’s Emergency Medical Treatment And Labor Act ensure patients get the treatment they need in emergency rooms. For less urgent care, some hospital systems, like Franciscan, also offer walk-in clinics. 

As of Wednesday, there are 3,040 Hoosiers hospitalized with the virus. That’s nearly 235 percent higher than it was when the state moved to Stage 5 of its reopening plan.

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