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University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics and COVID-19

This week I had the pleasure of talking with Dr. Theresa Brennan, the Chief Medical Officer of University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics. As Chief Medical Officer, she is the governmental medical head of UIHC, and works with the hospital on public health concerns. She was able to give me a broader idea of what is going on at UIHC, as well as give some advice to Iowa City residents, and students coming back to campus.

Dr. Theresa Brennan (image via UIHC)

UIHC has done a lot to ensure safety when entering healthcare buildings. Patients, faculty, and staff are all screened and get their temperature taken before entering a facility. Faculty and staff are constantly monitored for COVID symptoms, and PPE is required constantly. The hospital has designated a COVID floor, with specialized nurses dedicated to the COVID patients. As of June 25, UIHC has treated 241 adults and 11 pediatric inpatients with COVID, and has conducted 17,800 Telehealth screenings for COVID and 15,800 visits to the influenza-like clinic. Something that Dr. Brennan stressed during our conversation was the impact on the hospital’s regular patients during this time. Patients have had to postpone care because of the risk of contracting COVID, as well as not being able to have their family with them during treatment because of the hospital’s restrictions.

In the past 3 months, Telehealth visits have increased 8000% at UIHC with more than 63,000 visits. UIHC is planning to continue to use Telehealth moving forward. Right now the hospital is working on figuring out the best way to use it, as well as making sure that staffing and scheduling accommodates Telehealth.

UIHC started ordering more PPE in order to prepare for COVID in January. Leadership has been very aggressive in ordering PPE, sometimes having to pay more or get supplies from new supply chains. Because we don’t know what the future holds, the hospital is conserving PPE in case of a second wave. One thing that Dr. Brennan stressed is that UIHC always follows the rules, and that PPE is being used for its suggested amount of time and no longer.

image via UIHC

Something that has significantly improved the conservation and correct use of PPE is UIHC’s partnership with the College of Public Health. CPH has been working to reprocess and sanitize used PPE so that it can be reused instead of simply thrown away. This makes it easier for UIHC to have constant access to safe PPE.

Dr. Brennan and I talked about the recent Johnson County increase, and she said that she agrees that the economy needed to open up in order to take care of the community, but the lack of masks, social distancing, and the fact that people are tired of the restrictions and choose to not follow safety standards is why there has been an increase. People who are social have the highest risk of contracting COVID, which is commonly the 18-25 age group. This age group, however, generally responds to COVID the best and doesn’t usually require hospitalization.

Dr. Brennan wants people to know that the COVID pandemic is not over yet and to “Please continue to practice social distancing, and consider how your activities impact yourself and others. We all want to be out and about again, but the safest thing is still to stay home.”