Iowa Hospital Transfer Line set up to deal with Covid patient surgers

HOUSTON, TX - NOVEMBER 10: (EDITORIAL USE ONLY) A medical staff member walks in the COVID-19 intensive care unit (ICU) at the United Memorial Medical Center (UMMC) on November 10, 2020 in Houston, Texas. According to reports, COVID-19 infections are on the rise in Houston, as the state of Texas has reached over 1,030,000 cases, including over 19,000 deaths. (Photo by Go Nakamura/Getty Images)

Iowa hospitals with no room to admit more patients now have a new resource for finding a hospital willing to accept a patient transfer. Bob Ritz, CEO of MercyOne in Des Moines, says the Iowa Hospital Transfer Line was recently set up for this purpose.

“Hospitals often transfer patients to another hospital for a different level of care and we do that all the time,” Ritz says, “but during the pandemic, with these episodic waves of infections and surges, the bed supply gets tighter and the difficult in transfer of patients is remarkably different.”

Ritz says the “new population” of patients with Covid has presented a challenge to Iowa hospitals over the past nine months.

“An individual will make a phone call to another hospital — and they usually have those hospitals they call, but when the bed supply tightens up in urban and rural Iowa, those calls become many,” Ritz says, “and the complexity of that process can be really disheartening.”

To address that, a single phone number has been established and Ritz says Iowa National Guard soldiers are answering the new Hospital Transfer Line, “coordinating the care of patients that have a Covid diagnosis and acute care patients that also need access to care.”

According to a Centers for Disease Control analysis, about 80 percent of Covid patients that were transferred in April were taken to a hospital outside the network where the patient was originally admitted.

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