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Expect long wait times at emergency rooms, local doctors say

Two years into the COVID-19 pandemic, issues such as staffing shortages and a lack of open beds persist at hospitals across the Des Moines metro.

DES MOINES, Iowa — In the beginning of the pandemic, local hospitals were facing outbreaks, medical supply and staffing shortages and hospital backlog. Today, those hospitals are seeing the same issues, including not having enough beds for patients seeking treatment. 

"Today, we had six patients in our emergency room needing admissions, and there was no bed available," said Dr. Shah Yogesh, chief medical officer at Broadlawns Medical Center

Yogesh said if you are in need of the emergency room in the Des Moines metro, it may be a struggle to find one. 

"All the hospitals in our metro are getting full," he said. 

Dr. Tim McCoy with MercyOne South Medical Clinic said the issue stems from too many non-emergency trips being made to the E.R. 

"Five years ago, or maybe even pre COVID, two, three years ago, maybe that wasn't as big of an issue," McCoy said. "But now, with nursing staff shortages and backlogs in some of these locations, you know..."

Kaitlyn Damman with UnityPoint Health said before making the trip to the E.R., your primary care provider should be your first stop. 

"If you have a family doctor or pediatrician, calling them first to see if they have any openings is a great first place to start," Damman said. "And then they can always direct you to go to other places, such as urgent care or express care, if they think you could be better treated there."

Yogesh said if you find yourself in true need of the E.R., come prepared to patiently wait. 

"The hospitals are trying their best to accommodate your needs, but there is no beds so many times patients might have to wait in the emergency room for 12 hours, 24 hours, even longer," Yogesh said. 

If you do need to go to the emergency room, Yogesh recommends bringing any medication you may need for the day so you are prepared for any wait times. 

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