© 2023 WGLT
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

Carle BroMenn 'absolutely at capacity' as COVID defers elective surgeries and wears down staff

Carle BroMenn
Carle BroMenn has 21 COVID patients, including six in the ICU. All patients on a ventilator were unvaccinated.

The latest COVID-19 surge is pushing hospitals like Carle BroMenn Medical Center to the brink.

This week has been especially tough. Carle BroMenn is holding patients in the emergency department because there are no beds available. The hospital has repurposed its cardiac catheterization lab to hold patients. It’s begun to defer elective surgeries. It’s turning down requests from other hospitals to take in dozens of patients every day.

“We are absolutely at capacity,” Carle BroMenn President Colleen Kannaday said Friday.

Colleen Kannaday
Carle BroMenn President Colleen Kannaday.

Carle BroMenn has 21 COVID patients, including six in the ICU. All patients on a ventilator are unvaccinated. Across the Carle system, more than 87% of ICU COVID patients also are unvaccinated against the virus, while over 82% of hospitalized COVID patients overall are unvaccinated.

There are now more than 1,100 active COVID cases in McLean County — the most since January. That's despite the COVID vaccine being widely available for months — which wasn't the case in January.

“I would continue to say, and ask, and really plead, for all of us to do our part,” Kannaday said. “To get vaccinated. To get the booster shot. And to wear our mask. To stay out of large public settings. And to maintain that social distancing.”

This week, Carle BroMenn started to defer some elective surgeries in consultation with physicians. Kannaday called it a “very difficult decision.”

“You’re not able to bring a patient in for an elective surgery who’s going to require an inpatient bed or ICU bed, when there’s no bed to put them in. It’s unfortunate,” she said.

Carle is still doing cardiac-related and cancer-related surgeries.

Carle BroMenn’s emergency department remains open for patients, but every day the hospital is turning down requests from other hospitals to take in patients who need a higher level of care.

“You’ve got outlying hospitals that are keeping patients that they’re not equipped to care for, and that’s not the safest or best place,” Kannaday said. “But when you don’t have a bed to transfer them into, you can’t accept that transfer. That’s not something that people necessarily realize.”

They get hospital calls from as far away as Oklahoma, Texas, and Arkansas.

“Some hospitals have reported they’ve called 30-35 hospitals with no ability to find a bed to transfer a patient,” Kannaday said, adding Carle BroMenn’s staff is tired,but there is no available agency staff to ease the load.

“They are tired. They have worked incredibly hard,” Kannaday said. “And it is very concerning when we say there’s no end in sight.”

There are now 43 people hospitalized with COVID at Bloomington-Normal's two hospitals: Carle BroMenn and OSF HealthCare St. Joseph Medical Center.

We depend on your support to keep telling stories like this one. You – together with donors across the NPR Network – create a more informed public. Fact by fact, story by story. Please take a moment to donate now and fund the local news our community needs. Your support truly makes a difference.

WGLT Senior Reporter Charlie Schlenker has spent more than three award-winning decades in radio. He lives in Normal with his family.
Sarah Nardi is a WGLT reporter. She previously worked for the Chicago Reader covering Arts & Culture.
Ryan Denham is the digital content director for WGLT.
Related Content