Suresh Gunasekaran. (file photo)

As the number of COVID-19 hospitalizations continues rising in Iowa, the CEO of the state’s largest hospital says he’s dealing with staffing shortages and burnout.

Suresh Gunasekaran, who heads the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, says the staff is straining with the jump in both COVID and non-COVID patients. He says it’s a statewide trend. “There are bed challenges that are being caused by not having enough staffing,” Gunasekaran says, “and we see that by increased transfer requests from various different parts of the state when they’re unable to staff the same number of beds that they were last year.”

Gunasekaran says the pandemic has taken a significant toll on health care workers at the Iowa City facility and elsewhere, leading to a higher-than-average number leaving the workforce in the past year. “We are paying a pretty heavy price in terms of the mental health of our workforce in terms of the physical workload that they see day in and day out.”

State health officials reported Thursday that 638 Iowans were hospitalized with the virus in the past week. That’s up 10% from last week and is the highest number this year.

(By Natalie Krebs, Iowa Public Radio)