Quad Cities hospitals seeing staffing shortages, increase in COVID hospitalizations

Health officials at QCA hospitals are urging the community to do their part as healthcare workers deal with a growing number of hospitalizations.
Published: Nov. 16, 2020 at 8:01 PM CST
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QUAD CITIES (KWQC) - Cases of the coronavirus continue to increase at rapid rates across the country and in the Quad Cities area. Health officials at QCA hospitals are urging the community to do their part as healthcare workers deal with a growing number of hospitalizations.

“From March 15 up to October 15, we were dealing with about three COVID admissions a day, and [in] the last seven days it’s been more like 20,” said Doug Cropper, President, and CEO of Genesis Health System. As of Monday, he said there were 131 patients in their hospitals and what they were concerned about in April is what is happening now.

“All different parts of the country have surged at different times and this is our surge in the Midwest. If you look at this surge, it’s very much centralized in Wisconsin, Illinois, Iowa, North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota. So, the surge that’s happening is here, and it is really huge. The numbers are exponential compared to what they were earlier, and all of our worst fears about being overwhelmed as hospitals, you know, are challenging us right now,” Cropper said.

Dr.Toyosi Olutade, the Chief Medical Officer at UnityPoint Health-Trinity, said they’re seeing an increase in numbers in comparison to what they saw in the spring.

“Our numbers right now, compared to the peak in spring, about 3 times what it was then,” Olutade said. “Probably about 10 days ago we had 40 patients and that was really serious. Right now we have 95 and by tomorrow we will be in the hundreds and it’s not just unique to us. It is very serious. It’s affecting not just COVID patients. Now, patients that have other conditions and need the intensive care unit, those beds are now occupied by COVID patients.”

According to officials, both Genesis Health System and UnityPoint are seeing staffing shortages.

“We are straining for staff. We are straining for resources. We’ve been innovative. We’re providing everything that is necessary to the patient, but this situation is dire, I would say,” Olutade said.

“We have on any given day, anywhere from 150 to 160 employees who are out sick with COVID and are recovering and so that taxes the system even more from a staffing standpoint,” Cropper said.

Cropper also said they’ve pulled as many people within their health system to come and work in their COVID units. From former medical or ICU nurses to retired nurses.

“We have several retired nurses who have come back. We’re trying to get everybody that we can to come in and help us out in our units. There just aren’t enough trained and expert, nurses, and healthcare professionals, to be able to care for an infinite number of patients,” Cropper said. “We don’t have enough beds. We don’t have enough nurses. We can only do so much. So we need to turn this around now. That’s what has to happen. We need infection rates to go lower now.”

Olutade said while the physical and emotional strain is huge, he has seen the staff come together in support of one another.

“They channel the stress and the straining to resiliency. There’s a lot of support the staff are giving each other. There’s a lot of support that comes from the senior leadership team. We’re all in it together. We’re all, you know, banding together to fight COVID,” he said.

They’re both asking for the community to do their part by wearing masks, social distancing, practicing good hygiene, and avoiding large gatherings.

“We need to do these things because it will give the hospitals a chance, the health system the chance, to take care of the community,” Olutade said, “They are our patients. They’re like our family when we take care of them. So we’re here to take care of them and we want the community to also think of us as their family. Please take care of us by doing the right things in the community.”

“Give ‘em an air hug and hand’ em a plate of cookies and tell them thank you for working to save so many lives within this region,” Cropper said, “Our mortality rates are lower than other regions. We’re doing an incredible job. It’s all due to the doctors, nurses, and all the other healthcare workers and they deserve not only your thanks, they deserve you to take the actions to not get COVID, but if you know somebody, you should thank them and take them a plate of cookies.”

University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics

TV6 also reached out to the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics. In a statement, officials said there is an increase in hospitalizations. On Monday, they reported 79 adult inpatients and six pediatric patients, both record highs for COVID hospitalizations there.

The statement said in part, “Our staff are prepared, they are ready – but they are tired. Our staff are also members of the community, and they’re not immune to community spread once they leave the hospital. We do have staff who have tested positive for COVID and have isolated, or who have been exposed and placed on quarantine – so those absences are felt along the lines of patient care, as well. We have record-high COVID cases at the same time we are seeing an increasing number of staff who are out. What that means is that some of our staff are being reassigned to areas in greater need.”

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