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Des Moines hospitals swamped with recent influx of patients

Emergency rooms are seeing more patients coming in with a variety of illnesses and injuries, not just COVID-19.

DES MOINES, Iowa — Des Moines medical providers have been overwhelmed with patients over the past few weeks.

People are not only coming in with COVID-19, but also pneumonia, strokes and broken bones.

Dr. Gary Hemann, who works at MercyOne Medical Center, said it's hard to tell if reopening everything is putting more people at risk for other illnesses.

"As people are getting out and doing more... being in bigger crowds, all that might be something that, again, you get the non-COVID acute illness symptoms as well," Hemann said.

He also said the uptick in patients is putting a strain on staff.

"That rapid assessment of who's the sickest and who needs the most urgent intervention is an ongoing process that wears on staff all the time," Hemann said.

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Health care workers at UnityPoint Health said they're having the same issue. Chief Medical Officer and pediatric intensive care physician Dr. Tracy Ekhardt hopes people will be more discerning when it comes to where they're seeking medical care.

"We’re asking the public to work with their primary care provider as well to try to figure out the best way for them to be seen when they’re feeling ill," Dr. Ekhardt said. "To either go to their regular clinic, to go to urgent care...and their primary care provider decide to make sure they’re seen in the appropriate place and not having incredibly long wait times if they go to the ER when it is not an acute illness."

Ekhardt said UnityPoint is also seeing an uptick in COVID-19 patients who were not vaccinated.

"It's what we've been saying over the last year--wash your hands, wearing masks when you’re in big groups, COVID vaccinations," Ekhardt said. "If we have a COVID surge on top of this already record-high census, that will be very hard in our community."

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