As COVID-19 cases have surged across Iowa, so have hospitalizations for treatment of the disease. The state of Iowa has set new record high numbers for COVID-19 hospitalizations each of the last nine days, reaching 730 on Tuesday morning. And as those hospitalizations have climbed, so have worries that hospitals won't be able to handle the increase in patient numbers.
On Saturday afternoon, Dr. John Schantzen, a health care provider at Kossuth Regional Health Center in Algona, posted on Facebook that MercyOne North Iowa hospital in Mason City and Unity Point in Fort Dodge were "out of COVID-19 hospital beds". He urged the public to take steps to prevent the spread of coronavirus. The message was shared widely on Facebook and Twitter.
The Iowa coronavirus website reports hospitalization numbers across the state's five Regional Medical Coordination Center regions. Hardin County is part of RMCC Region 2, which has reported record numbers of hospitalizations with 39 inpatients hospitalized as of Tuesday. The Iowa Department of Public Health was reporting that as of Nov. 1, three Hardin County residents were hospitalized.
Hansen Family Hospital in Iowa Falls is part of the MercyOne North Iowa network. HFH CEO Doug Morse said Monday that HFH has been working with its Mercy partners for months to plan to meet any needs that may arise within the network. The hospital has had a months-old plan in place to transfer COVID-19 patients who are in need of inpatient care to larger facilities that are better equipped to treat them. But if one of those larger facilities needs to free up beds, it's possible that stable COVID-19 patients or non-COVID inpatients could be transferred to HFH. Morse said that has not happened and he described HFH's current inpatient numbers as "very moderate".
"We have been nowhere near our capacity yet," he said on Monday.
Scott Curtis, Vice President of Network Development at Mercy One, said that while MercyOne Mason City saw a surge of patients last weekend - the most COVID-19 patients it's had since the start of the pandemic - increased staffing and discharges helped address those numbers.
"We know the number of cases are up everywhere. Hospitalizations are up 20 percent across the state," Curtis said. "I think all hospitals are adapting to that increased volume."
He said plans have been in place for months to deal with this kind of surge.
"We adjust our plans every day to adapt, and so that's what we're doing now so we're going to be able to accept all of those COVID patients who are coming in and have enough room and beds available," Curtis said.
He said the public can do its part to help hospitals by implementing the precautions that public health officials have been urging since March.
"I would remind people the best way to slow the spread is wearing that mask, avoiding large gatherings, maintaining social distancing, hand washing," he said. "We're just simply not seeing it across the state as well as it should be. It's the single best way to defend against COVID."
As of Tuesday morning, Hardin County stood at a total of 574 cumulative COVID-19 cases, an increase of 16 cases in 24 hours. Of those 574 cases, seven people have died and 326 are reported as having recovered, leaving 241 Hardin County residents currently infected. There active outbreaks at two Hardin County long term care facilities. Hubbard Care Center has reported a total of 58 COVID-19 cases with four recoveries, and Grand JiVanté in Ackley has reported five cases.