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Some Iowa hospitals close beds as number of COVID-19 patients decrease

KCCI Des Moines logo KCCI Des Moines 8/4/2022
some iowa hospitals close beds as demand for service decreases © Provided by KCCI Des Moines some iowa hospitals close beds as demand for service decreases

Despite Iowa's increase in COVID-19 cases in recent weeks, health care providers say it's nowhere near as bad as it's been.

"Overall, those COVID numbers are down, which has meant there's less demand for beds," said Eric Lothe, the COO of UnityPoint Health-Des Moines.

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While demand for ER services continues to be high, what has decreased is the number of patients coming in with COVID-19.

Out of the 650-plus beds at UnityPoint Health-Des Moines, Lothe says they have only closed or capped 40 to 50 beds. Lothe explained what closing beds mean, describing it as something they do when they think they're going to be out of commission for a little bit longer period of time. Part of the only closing 40 to 50 beds is due to less of a demand, but it's also the hospital's way of retaining staff.

"We can't hire them and then ask them to take more patients than what is absolutely safe and essential," Lothe said.

Lothe says if they need to reopen beds, they will do so if the demand ever arises.

If you asked three months ago, Lothe says the hospital was successful in hiring, but people were still leaving. Currently, that's not the case.

"We're starting to really rebuild the ranks of nurses and respiratory therapists and other employees," Lothe said.

As hospitals rebuild their ranks, Lothe says what would help a lot is for patients to be patient.


Video: Some Iowa hospitals close beds as demand for service decreases (KCCI Des Moines)

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"It may mean at times that there's a little bit longer wait for service," Lothe said. "But we are open; all services are open."

MercyOne-Des Moines didn't share if it has to cap or close beds. However, a spokesperson said they have had longer wait times in recent months due to the staffing shortage and capacity issues.

"Weakness, chest pains, trouble breathing: those are symptoms where people need to go to the emergency room," said Dr. Joseph McGargill, MercyOne Des Moines's chief medical information officer.

McGargill says what would help ease wait times is people know when to go the emergency room versus as urgent care.

"Acute symptoms such as cold symptoms or minor cuts, I would probably want to go to the urgent care," McGargill said.

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