Iowa hospitals and their employees face a number of challenges as they take care of an increasing number of patients with COVID-19.

Dr. Toyosi Olutad, Chief Medical Officer for UnityPoint Health Trinity, says people put off routine health care last year, and now the system is struggling to deal with pent-up demand. “The hospitals have been very busy with non-COVID illness and if you add on COVID-19, it’s going to be a whole new level of stress to the hospital systems,” Dr. Olutade says.

Even large health care organizations in the region are shuffling patients and beds in an attempt to meet demand. “Missouri, southern Illinois, they’ve been sending patients to Iowa, the University of Iowa, because they don’t have beds,” he says. “So what happens to the people that maybe require care over there or with us? There are no beds because COVID-19 patients have occupied those beds.”

The doctor says he wishes he could say employees are doing very well, but in reality, they’re just plain tired. Olutade says everyone who works at the hospital is stressed out. Not just doctors and nurses, but also secretaries, clerks, lab and x-ray technicians, therapists, housekeepers, food service workers, and maintenance personnel.

“Many people who were planning to retire in two or three years have actually just retired because it’s been overwhelming for them,” he says. “There’s such a limited pool of nurses available, a limited pool of respiratory therapists, a limited pool of ultrasound techs because people are leaving the health care field faster than new people are coming in.”

UnityPoint Health operates Iowa hospitals in: Anamosa, Bettendorf, Cedar Rapids, Des Moines, Dubuque, Grinnell, Fort Dodge, Marshalltown, Muscatine, Sioux City, and Waterloo — as well as in Illinois and Wisconsin.

(By Michelle O’Neill, WVIK, Rock Island)