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From the frontlines: An inside look at a Des Moines hospital as it handles the recent COVID surge

Local 5's Mary Sugden goes inside an Iowa emergency room where doctors are dealing with bed shortages and mental stressors.

DES MOINES, Iowa — Local 5 followed doctors and nurses on the frontlines in the emergency room and intensive care unit at UnityPoint Health-Iowa Methodist Medical Center as they battled the most recent COVID-19 surge

"If you are not critically ill, you can oftentimes expect wait times from three to 12 hours," said Dr. Clint Hawthorne, the medical director for UnityPoint's emergency departments.

After that wait is over, he said many patients can expect to experience yet another delay.

"You can wait 12 to 24 hours, sometimes you have 48 hours to get a bed in the hospital," Hawthorne said. "We don't have beds. We have staffing challenges."

When patients are admitted to hospital with COVID-19, doctors say their stay will likely not be short. 

"Their average time in the hospital right now is around 17 days," said UnityPoint hospitalist Dr. Andrew Stefani. "That's unprecedented for a lot of illnesses. Nowadays, most people are in and out of the hospital in under a week."

"We have about 30 beds in the Methodist emergency department," Hawthorne said. "And at any given day, about half of those are taken up by patients who should be in the hospital somewhere."

Watch "From the Frontlines: Mental Health" Friday, Feb. 11 on Local 5 News at 10 or stream on Roku, Amazon Fire TV or YouTube TV.  

WATCH | Gov. Reynolds signs final COVID-19 public health emergency declaration, will expire Feb. 15 

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