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Doctors share grim scenes in their facilities, advise all to get vaccinated

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Hospitals have been stretched to their limits by the surge of COVID-19 cases triggered by the omicron variant and the increase in staff members who are sick or isolating because of exposure to the coronavirus, a group of doctors and specialists from Methodist Health System said in a Zoom session Thursday.

As of Tuesday, the last day of available data, the 14-day positivity average in Iowa was 21.2%, according to coronavirus.iowa.gov. There had been 182 deaths from COVID-19 in the preceding seven days. There were 923 COVID-19 patients hospitalized and 178 in intensive care. Of those in intensive care, 78.9% were unvaccinated. Additionally, 72.6% of those hospitalized with COVID-19 were unvaccinated.

“In southwest Iowa, I’m getting calls every day from smaller hospitals who (don’t have the resources to provide this level of care) who are just trying to get patients through,” said Dr. Sumit Mukherjee, pulmonologist and critical care coordinator at Methodist Jennie Edmundson. “There are no beds.

“The staffing issues have been challenging for everybody,” he said. “When patients come in with COVID, it’s not a short stay — it is weeks to months.”

“The majority of patients we’re seeing in the hospital, even at this point in the surge, are unvaccinated,” Mukherjee continued. “If you can get vaccinated, that is the biggest thing you can do to help us through this.”

When it comes to elective surgery, each hospital is making its own decisions, he said.

COVID-19 is hard on pregnant women, said Dr. Emily Patel, maternal/fetal medicine specialist at Methodist Women’s Hospital in Omaha.

“We have the highest number of pregnant women positive we’ve seen in the pandemic,” Patel said. “We are delivering moms prematurely, because of declining conditions. We have seen stillbirths. During Delta, that went up about fourfold. There have been maternal deaths because of this.”

There have also been more of the usual complications — high blood pressure, preeclampsia, she said.

Pregnant women who develop COVID-19 have worse outcomes than other women their age, Patel said. They are three times more likely to need intensive care and almost twice as likely to die from COVID-19.

“These are young, healthy people,” although some have co-morbidities, she said.

“We unfortunately have limited room right now … We have to prioritize to the highest tier of patients,” Patel said.

Like the others, Patel urged people to get vaccinated.

“The vaccine is safe and effective during pregnancy,” she said.

The surge is happening in pediatrics, too, said Dr. Matthew Gibson, a pediatrician at Methodist Physicians Clinic.

“In pediatrics, this is by far the most cases of COVID we’ve seen …”

There are still patients with normal illnesses, like flu and strep throat, Gibson said.

“We’re fortunate, because most children handle COVID adequately, but there are also children who are getting very sick,” he said.

While not as many children are dying as adults, “it’s important to remember that every one of those numbers is a person,” he said. And some have lingering effects from the illness.

When babies are struggling to breathe, they can’t eat or breastfeed, Gibson said. At that point, they must be hospitalized, just to get basic care.

Gibson urged parents to get their children vaccinated and reminded them that children 5 or older can now be vaccinated against COVID-19.

“The vaccine is safe,” he said. “It’s effective.”

He also reminded them not to send their children to school if they are sick and to watch their children for symptoms – especially if they have been exposed to someone who tested positive.

When asked about compassion fatigue, Patel said, “It’s real.”

It’s hardest when you are trying to do your best to care for people and they (or their families) don’t trust you, Patel said.

“I’ve obviously dedicated my career to keeping moms healthy,” she said. “I would never recommend something that was going to be harmful or that I thought might be harmful.”

Sometimes people who are waiting are hard on triage nurses or other emergency personnel, Williams said.

“They say, ‘Why are we sitting in the waiting room? Why can’t you care for us?’ or ‘Why can’t my whole family visit (the patient)?’

“Please have some patience, have some compassion for us,” Williams said. “We really do care — that’s why we’re here.”

Sometimes, it’s not compassion fatigue, it’s physical fatigue, Gibson said. There are more people sick, more complications and more questions.

“We are exhausted,” Mukherjee said. “This has been such a terrible journey. What we’re not used to is dealing with the volume of people dying from the same condition.”

On one day, he had to pronounce one-third of the patients in critical care dead, he said.

Meanwhile, respiratory therapists and critical care nurses are feeling helpless, Mukherjee said.

“We just want everybody to come together and realize we’re all fighting the same battle here,” he said.

Pottawatt

Nomi Health moves to appointment testing

The Nomi Health COVID-19 testing site in Council Bluffs now require sappointments.

“The change to an appointment-only model was made to reduce lines and wait times,” said Recce Ristau, Nomi Health public relations associate, in an email to the Nonpareil. “The change will better accommodate the number of people requiring a test while allowing frontline workers conducting the tests to better meet the needs of the Council Bluffs community.”

Registration is required to schedule an appointment and can be done at nomihealth.com/iowa. Upon registration people will receive a QR code that they will either need to show on their phone or have it printed out at their arrival time.

The Nomi Health testing site in Council Bluffs is located at 1751 Madison Ave.

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