Mercy Medical Center stresses vaccines as COVID-19 surge strains staffing

Mercy Medical Center says the COVID-19 surge is hitting its staff and adding to their stress, saying vaccines are helping it from getting worse.
Published: Jan. 6, 2022 at 10:29 PM CST
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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) - The number of Mercy Medical Center workers who have tested positive for COVID-19 in the last week has more than doubled, highlighting a challenging time for the hospital and staff with rising cases statewide.

Mercy Medical Center in Cedar Rapids had 45 employees test positive in the past 7-days, according to Doctor Tony Myers, the Medical Director of System Quality and Population Health at Mercy. Total positive cases among Mercy patients topped 1,000 in the past week, double from the week before.

As of Thursday, Mercy Medical Center had 51 patients hospitalized with COVID-19, nine of them in the ICU. Dr. Myers said the hospital’s pandemic peak is about 60 COVID-19 patients, so 51 is on the higher end of patient load but stressed the hospital has contingency plans to expand capacity, if needed.

Doctor Myers said hospitalizations have held steady despite high admissions, something he credits to vaccines.

“Luckily, people that are vaccinated; especially if they’re boosted,” said Doctor Myers. “If they do end up getting hospitalized they do tend to have milder illness and tend to go home quicker and that’s really helping us right now.”

He does warn, though, that those who are unvaccinated are taking up more beds for longer periods of time. Doctor Myers says it’s critical for people to do what they can to stay healthy, as more strain on hospitals could mean they’d pause core services.

“Still, the absolute number of cases if it goes up high enough, it doesn’t matter. Even if a smaller percentage end up the hospital or critically ill that really puts a strain on the health care system,” Myers said

With the staff shortages, he said non-clinical workers, those who work in office or clerical roles, are helping out as they are able: changing beds, cleaning rooms, and moving patients.

Editor’s Note: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that 1,000 Mercy staff tested positive in the past week. This was the internal number of cases confirmed at Mercy in the last week among patients, not the total number of staff testing positive.

An earlier version also incorrectly noted the number of open ICU beds as the number of open total beds, both numbers that can change by the hour. The hospital has said it has plans to increase bed capacity, should the need arise.

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