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Hospitals In Northwest Indiana Struggle With Increased Wait Times And Influx Of Patients As COVID Cases Rise

HOBART, Ind. (CBS) – Hospitals in Indiana are seeing a surge in COVID-19 cases. The state is seeing over 4,700 positive cases between just Monday and Tuesday. They're also seeing some of the highest hospitalization numbers since the beginning of the pandemic.

CBS 2's Asal Rezaei visited Saint Mary Hospital in Hobart for more on the latest numbers.

Emergency rooms were so packed that one woman said she's been waiting since 2 a.m. – others even longer.

Emergency rooms in Northwest Indiana are scrambling to treat an influx of COVID patients.

"Statewide, we're pretty close to the highest level of people hospitalized for COVID that we've ever experienced."

Micah Pollak, a professor at Indiana University Northwest says as COVID numbers rise the number of available beds will continue to fluctuate as hospitalizations typically lag behind cases by a couple of weeks.

The family of a patient with a heart condition sent pictures from inside the emergency room at Community Hospital in Munster, Indiana. A patient is lying in a hospital bed inside the ER waiting room.  we're not showing anyone's faces to protect their identities.

"I think that if you talk to a lot of healthcare workers and they would say we're in a worse position than we've ever been in since COVID began," Pollak said.

That family of the patient with the heart condition tells CBS 2 they ended up waiting at the community hospital's ER for about five hours Tuesday before coming to Saint Mary's Hospital in Hobart.

The pictures were taken around 5 p.m. Tuesday -- nearly 20 hours later, that patient finally got into an ER bed.

"In Northwest Indiana, we have 16-17% of our ICU beds available, but if remember those are physical beds, and we built up a lot of temporary kind of short term, you know, ICU beds, in parking lots and places like that," Pollak said.

Pollak says while beds do exist, the staff to serve them does not. He says the nursing shortage before COVID hit has only gotten worse.

"And then in the last year, we've just had so many people burnout, nurses and doctors, people retire early. People decide not to go into the field, and those that remain are heavily overworked and just overloaded," he said.

While COVID -19 is the biggest threat here right now, experts say the impact trickles down and hurts others in need of medical attention.

"The danger is that you know, our hospital system gets overloaded and people you know, that that are in there for heart attacks or car accidents, broken legs or whatever. Just don't have space," Pollak said.

As the Omicron variant continues to spread along with Delta, experts say things are only going to get worse here before they get better for both patients and healthcare workers. We reached out to both Community and Saint Mary's Hospital but they couldn't provide any further information.

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