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Metro Hospitals Prepare for Potential Second Surge in COVID-19 Cases

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DES MOINES, Iowa — COVID-19 hospitalization rates are rising around the country and in Iowa. Health professionals are now preparing for a potential second surge in COVID-19 cases.

DES MOINES, Iowa — COVID-19 hospitalization rates are rising around the country and in Iowa. Health professionals are now preparing for a potential second surge in COVID-19 cases.

“We are actually in a way better shape than others when it comes to hospital bed shortages. I think we are still able to admit and discharge patients the way we want,” said Dr. Aneesa Afroze, an infectious disease consultant at MercyOne Des Moines.

Dr. Afroze said between MercyOne and UnityPoint in Des Moines, about 50 to 60 COVID-19 patents come into the hospital each day. But back in April and May, it was different.

“We had double the number of patients between UnityPoint and us. Double of what we are right now. So I think we are way better able to handle it at this point than we were at that time because at that time there was a surge and patients were sicker. Our ICU was full. We had a huge open area opened up for ICU beds at that time,” Dr. Afroze said.

She said hospitals in Polk County are prepared for another surge in COVID-19 patients, but she can’t say the same for other counties.

“You see University of Iowa gets flooded with these patients so they are running low on beds, and then our hospitals start filling up. So no, I don’t think they have all the resources either to take care of these patients. I think the situation is bad in some counties,” Dr. Afroze said.

Dr. Afroze said those smaller hospitals will have to use their resources to send patients to larger hospitals to get the care they need. It’s the care nurses and doctors have been providing since the pandemic began.

“We’ve seen volumes increase or go back to where they were before, so it’s the additional volume on top of it. Not only are we taking care of the COVID patients, but also we’re taking care of the patients we were taking care of before. So it’s stressful and it’s just as hard work as it was before the pandemic as well,” said Julie Tuel, market director of critical care services at MercyOne.

While the rest of the country is feeling the fatigue of the pandemic, so are doctors and nurses, but in a much different way.

“I think it’s hard. In health care, we still see that it’s real. And then when you go out into the community, it’s not always taken seriously, and that’s very difficult for anybody that’s dealing with taking care of these patients. It’s a very hard thing to digest and to not react to as well,” Tuel said.

And as the weather becomes colder, hospitals are preparing for the reality of another COVID-19 surge.

“We made it through the last one and we will absolutely be prepared and make it through this one again if it happens. We’re hopeful that with masking and social distancing that we won’t see as many hospitalized patients that we saw last time,” Tuel said.

Hospitals in the metro say they have hired more staff in preparation for the surge and also to help with the additional volume they have seen recently.