Beds.

Ventilators.

Personal protective equipment.

Staff.

Partnerships.

All of those are being evaluated as IU Health Jay, as part of an effort with the other hospitals in the east central region and across the state, prepares for an expected surge of COVID-19 patients.

“Really we’re taking a regional approach and looking at how can the patients can get to the best possible care that they need,” said Dave Hyatt, president of IU Health critical access hospitals for the east central region.

He said IU Health Jay and the system as a whole is working with the Indiana University School of Public Health, looking at forecasting and reviewing other data in an effort to be prepared for whatever may be needed of the healthcare community to deal with the coronavirus pandemic in the coming weeks and months.

In terms of resources, IU Health Jay has 25 med-surg beds — those used for routine care. On average, eight to 14 of those beds are occupied, Hyatt said.

There are other beds throughout the facility that are used for surgery, obstetrics, behavioral health and other functions. However, each bed has a specific license type, so it’s not as simple as just moving them around. The hospital is in contact with Indiana State Department of Health seeking a waiver to allow those additional beds to be put into service, if necessary.

“We are looking at how we can expand in the event of a patient surge,” Hyatt said, adding that spaces like the surgery center could be put into use if there is a rush of COVID-19 cases.

As a statewide system, IU Health is developing surge plans by region. That could include the sharing of staff and equipment.

For instance, IU Health Jay has just two ventilators whereas IU Health Ball Memorial Hospital in Muncie has far more resources. (IU Health Blackford in Hartford City is the other hospital in IU Health’s east central region.)

“It is very intentional to be by region because as we look at where resources go, Jay will play an integral role in care delivery in our region,” Hyatt said. “All IU Health facilities are looking at how we can best share resources to make sure that the patients get the right care at the right place at the right time.”

As Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb indicated during his address Monday, all hospitals in the state are being asked to work together to coordinate plans for COVID-19 care.

For example, Jay County is in Indiana Public Health Preparedness District 6, which also includes Randolph, Blackford, Delaware, Grant, Madison, Henry, Wayne, Union, Fayette, Rush, Howard and Tipton counties. IU Health Jay is in regular contact with other hospitals and emergency preparedness administrators in the region to discuss resources, personal protective equipment (PPE) and other issues.

“The one thing that we have to keep in mind, and that has become apparent to all hospitals, is that we’re all in this together,” Hyatt said.

In terms of testing, IU Health is looking at implementing additional remote sites so that those who may be in need don’t inadvertently clog emergency departments. As for who receives a test, Hyatt said every patient is different and many factors — potential exposure, travel, patient history and others — are considered to determine risk.

He suggested that everyone download the IU Health Virtual Clinic app, even if they are not sick, in order to be prepared. The free virtual clinic, which is also available at iuhealthvideovisit.org, is the first step in the evaluation process for those who may need to be tested.

“We wouldn’t be able to nearly handle the number of patients if it wasn’t for the virtual hub,” Hyatt said. “We’re screening hundreds of patients a day, if not thousands, and directing those patients to the most appropriate care.”



Hyatt said the No. 1 thing Jay County residents should do is stay home, if possible.

“That’s the best thing you can do to help us take care of the patients that need to be seen in the hospital,” he said. “I just think it’s important to take this seriously. The governor's order to stay at home … is very important as we try to flatten the curve …”

Indiana showed a spike in cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday, with the count at midnight climbing to 477 from 259 the previous day. There are confirmed cases in Adams, Wells and Delaware counties.

“This disease is here. It’s in our communities,” Hyatt added. “We just want to try to flatten the curve as much as possible so that we don’t overwhelm the healthcare system.”