EVANSVILLE, Ind. (WFIE) - 10 months into the coronavirus pandemic, intensive care units at Deaconess Health System have been near capacity for weeks.
Deaconess President Dr. James Porter says their intensive care units have been around 90% full over recent weeks. He says although the specific number of available ICU beds can change by the minute, the high capacity has forced the hospital to rethink some of its operations.
“I wouldn’t be doing a fair service to the doctors and nurses working in our ICU (space) if I got on television and said, ‘Hey everything’s fine, don’t worry about it’,” Dr. Porter said.
Because of the increase in hospitalizations, Deaconess has turned to virtual healthcare and telemedicine as an alternative way to free up more beds.
“We’re doing some things differently,” Dr. Porter said “We are focusing on putting some people at home, when otherwise out of an abundance of caution, put them in a hospital bed.”
Deaconess officials tell 14 News they work closely with community partners, and that includes the Evansville Mayor’s Office.
Mayor Lloyd Winnecke says his office works daily to find local solutions to the pandemic, like testing the homeless and providing supplies to those in need, but he says many of the challenges at our hospitals are out of his control.
“The medical experts and the healthcare community are really the ones who drive the contingencies related to healthcare,” Mayor Winnecke said. “It’s not city government. I am not a medical professional, so I don’t know that I have an obligation other than to sort of preach what I’ve been preaching for months and months and months.”
The mayor says he believes communication is key.
“The number one thing I think I can do is to encourage people to do all the things that we know work,” he said.
Winnecke says his office is doing everything in its power to help combat the virus.
As for the mayor, like so many of us, that includes family sacrifices.
”The Christmas tradition that my wife and I have enjoyed now for 16 years, going to Arizona to see my grandsons - we are not doing that,” Mayor Winnecke said. “We are staying home.”
Dr. Porter says Deaconess has also had to hire temporary doctors and nurses. The system is also offering incentives for current employees to pick up extra shifts.
Officials with Ascension St. Vincent say they are unable to share an update, since their bed capacity can be flexed as needed.