Rural hospitals in Iowa face challenges getting patients transferred to ICUs due to lack of bed space

Smaller hospitals are feeling a strain
Posted at 6:27 PM, Oct 04, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-04 19:27:33-04

RED OAK, Iowa. (KMTV) — Dr. Sumit Mukherjee at Methodist Jennie Edmundson Hospital says he's had several rural providers in Iowa ask for recommendations on advanced respiratory treatment. He says those smaller hospitals are feeling a strain because of the bedding situation since hospitals in bigger areas can't accept transfers.

"Oftentimes those hospitals, those community hospitals don't have the facilities or equipment to be able to take care of advanced respiratory failure. They have maybe a ventilator, or two and typically when they place patients on those ventilators, they transfer the patients into town," Mukherjee said.

Mukherjee says providers are feeling the pressure, in ways they've never felt before.

"Lots of providers are calling me and asking how to manage advanced respiratory failure at this point," Mukherjee said.

Providers like Dr. Thomas Baer and Nurse Practitioner Erin Howe who work at Montgomery County Memorial Hospitals and Clinics.

"The hardest part has been trying to find a bed to transfer that person to because the ICU space in Omaha and Council Bluffs have been pretty packed the last few months," Baer said.

Baer says he has to make several more phone calls to find a bed.

"It's just been more difficult and challenging to do it, and it's taking a longer period of time," Baer said.

Erin Howe works in Red Oak and says she's attempted to transfer patients as far away as Kansas.

"We can definitely, we have systems in place, where we offer to take lesser acuity patients in order to move our patients out — trying to make it work for everybody so there's not a burden in one system versus the other — working more as a team," Howe said.

Baer does his best to adapt to all these extra layers, serving a tight-knit community.

"It's just something you have to do, because in a rural area, you are actually treating people you know and know well and you're willing to go the extra mile — no problem," Baer said.

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