Iowa hospitals feeling the strain of the latest coronavirus surge

Coronavirus

DES MOINES, Iowa — Hospitals in Iowa remain strained due to COVID-19 hospitalizations. There are 788 COVID-19 patients hospitalized throughout the state on Monday, according to the Iowa Department of Public Health.

Amid these trying times, industry experts say health care workers are quitting the medical field due to burnout, and hospitals in Iowa face worker shortages.

“We cannot magically create new beds rapidly or new staff. That’s not how it works. Our staff is well trained, and it takes time to train staff,” said Dr. Tracy Ekhardt, who serves as the chief medical officer for UnityPoint Health – Des Moines. “There is only so much space, and throughout the city and the state and our nation, we have hit that limit. It’s really changing how we provide care in this country.”

UnityPoint says unvaccinated patients are filling hospital beds. In total, 85.2% of the COVID-19 patients in Iowa’s intensive care units are not fully vaccinated, according to the Iowa Department of Public Health. Officials say it’s difficult for hospital staff to treat other patients suffering from different ailments.

Ekhardt said the pandemic is changing the structure of hospitals. “Our medical system in the nation is unhealthy, and it’s due to the volume of COVID patients,” said Ekhardt. “Unvaccinated COVID patients push our ability to care for any kind of illness. It’s changing our ability to care for heart disease, for cancer, for kidney stones, for anything else coming in needing urgent care.”

Several hospitals across Iowa have recently begun reposting an image encouraging people to think about health care workers and get vaccinated.

“Not getting vaccinated doesn’t affect just you. It affects our whole community,” said Ekhardt.

Jennifer Nutt, the vice president of Nursing and Clinical Services of the Iowa Hospital Association, encourages people to get vaccination so health care workers can feel relief.

“The vaccines are proven to decrease the number of people hospitalized if they get COVID. You may still get COVID, but you won’t end up in a hospital, and that is what is important right now,” said Nutt.

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