Iowa’s largest hospital is struggling to keep up with patients’ needs due to a shortage of beds.

Because of a lack of capacity, the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics is denying some transfers from other hospitals, though it is accepting COVID-19 transfers. CEO Suresh Gunasekaran told the Board of Regents on Wednesday that patients are arriving sicker and staying longer than usual, causing a backlog.

Gunasekaran says, “Overall, what this means is that we are seeing a higher volume of sick patients from around Iowa that need to come to UIHC and we are struggling to keep up.” He says the high demand is not solely due to COVID patients, but likely also stems from Iowans with chronic diseases going without care earlier in the pandemic.

The UIHC saw demand drop off during the early days of the coronavirus pandemic when elective surgeries were canceled. After that ban was lifted, demand shot back up. With some transfers being denied from around the state, Gunasekaran says it will put pressure on smaller hospitals.

“The transfers and the volumes that we’re seeing are a challenge,” he says. “So inpatient transfer volumes have pretty much returned to the same numbers of patients trying to transfer from around Iowa into UIHC as pre-COVID, unfortunately, those patients are a lot sicker now.” Gunasekaran says the medical center is working on ways to expand capacity, and is hiring more permanent and temporary staff to meet demand.

(By Kate Payne, Iowa Public Radio)