Shelbyville City Council member Nathan Willis really wants to get across this message: MHP and other hospitals in our region are running low on resources to treat COVID cases.

This is the rationale behind the local government’s decision to reimplement masks.

“I think that right now it’s gotten a little polarized with the mask thing and the county commissioners vote [Monday] morning,” Willis said. “I think people are losing sight of the bigger picture and it’s really the local and regional hospital system. Right now, too much focus is being put on … conspiracies. Regardless of your feelings on COVID, the hospitals are getting filled up.”

“I wanted to get the message out on those points because I think when people realize we’re all in the same boat here – if all the hospitals fill up locally and in Indy, then you’re limited on your care choices,” he added.

Willis, a respiratory therapist at Eskenazi Health, is seeing the lack of resources first hand.

He said Eskenazi has been on diversion multiple times this week; “diversion” means they have to send ambulances to other hospitals because they are simply too full.

Although MHP is not on diversion, Monday’s Incident Command report shows that their inpatient unit is full and they have run out of Regeneron – the primary medication they’re using to treat COVID patients.

MHP has since moved to “BAM,” an Eli Lilly drug used to treat COVID in the earlier days of the pandemic. But they’re running short on that too, and MHP staff have no idea when they will receive shipments of both drugs.

The lack of resources increase the odds of a COVID-positive patient needing to move to the inpatient unit and possibly being put on a ventilator. This would take up space for trauma or other emergency patients.

“The possibilities of them (MHP) becoming inundated are high because not only are they running low on resources to treat COVID, like Regeneron, but you’re running into lack of space from inpatient care,” Willis said. “So then if someone has a stroke, you don’t have enough ICU beds to get the proper care.”

The Indiana State Department of Health is reporting only 13 percent of ICU beds are available in Shelby County’s region. This region includes Indianapolis, which has had several hospitals on diversion this week.

“It’s a combination of not only COVID but trauma and COVID combined,” Willis said. “COVID itself is not a high turnover rate. You’re not on a vent for three days and then you’re fine. It’s a long process to recover.”

If MHP has to divert, then people need to know where they can go to get emergency care, Willis added, and right now there’s not a lot of places to go.

Willis and other local officials hope to combat this “resource crunch” by re-instituting masks. Masks decrease the spread of the coronavirus, which in turn keeps people out of the hospitals.

No matter what people think about masks, to dismiss COVID would be irresponsible, Willis said.

“I’ve seen teenagers cry for their mother because their mother is on a vent and coding,” he said. “Yes, you’re tired of COVID, it sucks. I hate it. I have a two year old, and I’d love to take them out on experiences. The reality is you can’t ignore it.”

“I’m treating patients in the ER and at the same time I’m caring for them, they’re laughing at me because I’m wearing mask, or because I’m asking if they’ve been exposed to COVID in the last two weeks,” he said. “Even as I’m caring for them, I’m receiving animosity as a healthcare worker.”

This is why pleas are being made, Willis said. There’s not a lot of resources, and a lot more COVID.

“Resource limitation. That’s what I’m most concerned about,” he said. “That’s what we’re getting from MHP: ‘We’re running low on these medications, help us. We keep getting people in and don’t have the medication for it. We’re in trouble.’”