Iowa hospitals see ICU bed shortage, but COVID-19 is not solely to blame

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DES MOINES, Iowa — Several Iowa hospitals are running out of ICU beds, but COVID-19 is not the main reason behind the shortage.

Iowa Methodist Medical Center and Iowa Lutheran Hospital say they hovered around or above their ICU bed capacity for multiple weeks.

The University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics say they see the surge. In a statement, the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics said:

“Our ICUs are full right now, just as we were very full prior to the pandemic – 90-95% on average. We are used to operating at very high capacity and prepared to adjust our capacity up and down as needed to accommodate our patient needs. The vast majority of our ICU care at this time is for patients without COVID-19.”

University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics

Iowa Methodist Medical Center also says a majority of its patients suffer from other illnesses. While that could be encouraging news, the hospital is concerned about not having enough beds if there was a surge in COVID-19 cases.

“The reason that’s concerning is [that if] we were to have an additional surge in COVID beyond what we’re experiencing right now, our capacity to accommodate those patients is limited,” said Clint Hawthorne, the medical director for the emergency department at UnityPoint Health – Des Moines.

The hospital plans to bring additional nurses on staff to combat possible future issues. They want to encourage Iowans to get the vaccine.

“What we’re seeing, just here locally, is that the COVID-vaccinated population has decreased severity of illness,” said Hawthorne. “We’ve been encouraging people to get vaccinated so that decreases their personal chance of having severe COVID and also decreases their chance of having to be hospitalized if they do get COVID.”

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