Indiana hospital leaders are urging the public to help prevent respiratory illnesses from spreading as a combination of an unseasonably early arrival of respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) and influenza (flu), ongoing COVID-19 cases, and critical health care workforce shortages continue to strain hospital capacity.
According to IHA, the availability of pediatric hospital beds is the most pressing concern. Across the five largest Indiana hospitals specializing in care for children, pediatric beds were more than 70% occupied. At some of these facilities, intensive care beds were around 90% full for the sickest children.
The Association is urging families to seek care for mild symptoms and routine testing at settings other than the emergency room, such as an urgent care center or family physician’s office when possible.
“Emergency department wait times can increase quickly and resources can become depleted by visits for non-emergency medical conditions,” said Karin Kennedy, IHA’s Vice President of Quality and Patient Safety. “We also ask everyone to take the simple steps that are proven to slow the spread of respiratory diseases like RSV and the flu, such as hand hygiene.”
Kennedy said that the IHA is closely monitoring statewide bed capacity and regularly communicating with its members’ clinical leaders and public health officials.
IHA offered the following tips for treatment and prevention:
- DON’T: Seek hospital emergency care for non-emergency medical conditions, such as mild symptoms and routine testing.
- DO: Seek hospital emergency care if symptoms are worrisome and emergency care is needed. Emergency medical conditions can include difficulty breathing, dehydration, and worsening symptoms.
- DO: Immediately get vaccinated against the flu and COVID-19, if eligible. Visit www.vaccines.gov to search for vaccine availability or call your provider or the local health department.
- DO: Be patient if seeking care through a hospital emergency department. Consider that wait times may be elevated as respiratory illnesses reach seasonal peak levels.
- DO: Consider wearing a mask in public places, including at school, when you know local case rates of RSV, flu or COVID-19 are high.
- DO: Practice frequent and proper hand washing. Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
- DO: Stay home if you are not feeling well.
- DO: Cover your coughs and sneezes with a tissue, not your hands.
- DO: Avoid close contact, such as kissing, shaking hands, and sharing cups and eating utensils with others.
- DO: Clean frequently-touched surfaces such as doorknobs and mobile devices.