Indiana needs to spend more on public health, Holcomb says
By Victoria Ratliff
INDIANAPOLIS—The COVID-19 outbreak and the demands it has placed on health resources across the state highlight the need for more spending on public health, Gov. Eric Holcomb said Wednesday in his daily virtual press conference.
His comments came in response to a question about whether the pandemic shows that Indiana should be spending more in light of a study by the United Health Foundation ranking the state next to last in money allocated for public health.
“The answer is yes,” Holcomb replied without hesitating. “Clearly the answer was yes before this, and a lot of the world will be different come next year or next month and we’ll continue to address, as we have across the board, whether it’s infant mortality, we’ll take on whatever tough issue there is.
“We’re going to be in a reconstruction phase coming out of this. This is the toughest thing that, dare I say, any of us in our lifetimes have dealt with or probably ever will again.”
Dr. Kristina Box, commissioner of the Indiana Department of Health, agreed with Holcomb, saying she wishes Indiana could direct more dollars to public health and better support local health departments across the state.
Dr. Woody Myers, the Democratic candidate for governor, has been arguing since the pandemic began that Indiana needs to be more aggressive in fighting the disease and in getting resources for health professionals.
“The coronavirus pandemic is just the latest, alarming proof that we must invest more in the health of our citizens,” he said in a statement.
Myers also said the state should examine how money is currently being spent to target money to the current priorities.
“I also think we must boost our medical manufacturing sector to ensure a never-ending supply of medical equipment manufactured by Hoosiers,” he said, “which would make us a leading supplier of medical supplies to the rest of the nation and the world.”
The questions about public health spending came as the number of COVID-19 cases and deaths continue to climb in Indiana—436 new cases for a total of 5,943 and 30 more deaths for a total of 203.
Wednesday, Box said she is ordering long-term care facilities to report suspected or confirmed COVID-19 cases and deaths to local health departments and the state health department within 24 hours.
“Our goal at the state department of health and at the state level is to work with, in collaboration and partnership, all of our communities, all of our local long-term care facilities and our hospital systems and medical providers in these communities so that we make sure that this most vulnerable population gets the best possible care and the possible location,” Box said.
Of the deaths in the state, she said about 15% are from long-term care facilities. The state has seen multiple outbreaks in these facilities, including two in Madison County, one in Johnson County and one in Lawrence County.
Along with this order, the health department appointed Dr. Daniel Rusyniak, chief medical officer of the Indiana Family and Social Services Administration, to oversee communication with long-term care facilities.
Box said Indiana received testing machines that provide COVID-19 results in as little as 15 to 30 minutes. Currently, cartridges are limited and only 124 people will be able to be tested with these machines. But she said more cartridges are on the way to be used for additional testing.
Michael Kaufmann, director of Emergency Medical Services, said 75% of EMS providers have adequate personal protective equipment. He said all providers are still receiving their regular supply of protective equipment, but some might be more delayed in receiving them.
The preparation for a surge in the number of cases and deaths continues. The Marion County Emergency Operations Center announced that a temporary morgue will be used for COVID-19 patients in the event that hospital morgues overflow as a result of the outbreak.
“While we hope much of what we are planning for is never needed, we must do everything we can to ensure Indianapolis first responders, health care workers, and coroners all have the tools, personal protective equipment, and facilities they need to serve residents through any scenario,” Virginia Caine, director and chief medical officer of the Marion County Public Health Department said in a statement.
The morgue will be staffed by the Marion County Coroner’s office and can hold up to 750 decedents.
Victoria Ratliff is a reporter for TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.