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The worst we have seen Air ambulances busy with Iowa virus patients – KCCI Des Moines

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Nov 17, 2020

Des Moines hospital air ambulances report their flights to carry COVID-19 patients around the state have tripled in the past few weeks. These vital health care workers are struggling to save lives in the air.In the past few weeks, it has become rare to find an air ambulance on the hospital pad. Coronavirus has shifted its use in a big way.Just seconds after KCCI set up a camera, MercyOne Air Med was taking off from downtown Des Moines on its way to southern Iowa to help in another life-saving emergency. Chances are it was a COVID-19 case.The story is much the same across town at UnityPoint Health. LifeFlight helicopters have been working nonstop for the past few weeks. Michael Zweigart is the program manager for Lifeflight. He says his crews have recently tripled the number of flights as COVID-19 surges in Iowa. Normally they deal with patients suffering from heart attacks and strokes. Now, 70% of their flights are to transport coronavirus patients.“Certainly, the last couple of weeks is the worst we have seen as far as the number of patients,” he said. Has he seen anything like it before?“Nothing like this. I’ve seen floods in Cedar Rapids or certain tornado incidents you think ‘Wow. Could it get any worse?’ But this certainly is the worst situation that I’ve seen,” he said.Air ambulances are not just bringing patients to Des Moines, they are transferring them across the state in a process called leveling so that one hospital is not overwhelmed. And that’s not the only challenge. Ty Hobbs is the lead flight paramedic for MercyOne Air Med. He says no matter how busy they are, or how bad the virus gets, their work never stops. “One of the other challenges we’re having to is staffing. we’re not immune from COVID either,” Hobbs said. “it definitely adds to the stress of the job, but we just have to keep our head down and do what’s best for Iowa.”Sadly there is another virus side effect. Air ambulances are also carrying more victims of attempted suicide as more people are isolated during this deadly pandemic.

Des Moines hospital air ambulances report their flights to carry COVID-19 patients around the state have tripled in the past few weeks.

These vital health care workers are struggling to save lives in the air.

In the past few weeks, it has become rare to find an air ambulance on the hospital pad. Coronavirus has shifted its use in a big way.

Just seconds after KCCI set up a camera, MercyOne Air Med was taking off from downtown Des Moines on its way to southern Iowa to help in another life-saving emergency. Chances are it was a COVID-19 case.

The story is much the same across town at UnityPoint Health. LifeFlight helicopters have been working nonstop for the past few weeks.

Michael Zweigart is the program manager for Lifeflight. He says his crews have recently tripled the number of flights as COVID-19 surges in Iowa. Normally they deal with patients suffering from heart attacks and strokes. Now, 70% of their flights are to transport coronavirus patients.

“Certainly, the last couple of weeks is the worst we have seen as far as the number of patients,” he said.

Has he seen anything like it before?

“Nothing like this. I’ve seen floods in Cedar Rapids or certain tornado incidents you think ‘Wow. Could it get any worse?’ But this certainly is the worst situation that I’ve seen,” he said.

Air ambulances are not just bringing patients to Des Moines, they are transferring them across the state in a process called leveling so that one hospital is not overwhelmed. And that’s not the only challenge.

Ty Hobbs is the lead flight paramedic for MercyOne Air Med. He says no matter how busy they are, or how bad the virus gets, their work never stops.

“One of the other challenges we’re having to is staffing. we’re not immune from COVID either,” Hobbs said. “it definitely adds to the stress of the job, but we just have to keep our head down and do what’s best for Iowa.”

Sadly there is another virus side effect. Air ambulances are also carrying more victims of attempted suicide as more people are isolated during this deadly pandemic.

 

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