INDIANOLA, Iowa (WHO) — As COVID-19 cases continue to rise in Iowa, hospitals are delaying elected surgeries, and one Indianola woman says she was forced to postpone her open heart surgery. 

Mary lives with atrial fibrillation. The heart condition causes irregular – often rapid – heart rate resulting in poor blood circulation. Mary was scheduled to have open-heart surgery in September. However, Mary’s sister Sheila says MercyOne Medical Center canceled 48 hours before surgery. 

“The reason they gave us over the phone was that the hospital beds are all full of COVID patients,” said Sheila, Mary’s sister.

“Well, they are because a good number of patients that are admitted with COVID symptoms,” say, Dr. Gary Hemann, MercyOne Medical Center’s Interim Chief Medical Officer, “Therefore, they require a variety level services.”

In a statement, MercyOne Methodist acknowledged the hospital delaying non-emergent surgeries:

“Hospitals in all MercyOne regions continue to provide non-emergent surgeries. It is possible a procedure could be re-scheduled or delayed due to capacity and other factors which have potential to vary.”


Other local hospitals are facing some of the same issues.  UnityPoint Methodist has canceled elected surgeries due to caring for unvaccinated patients. 

Over the last several weeks, ALL UnityPoint Health – Des Moines Hospitals, including Blank Children’s Hospital, have seen a sustained increase in patient volumes. Patients are being diagnosed with respiratory illnesses (including COVID 19), injuries, and other emergent medical situations. Currently, 84% of patients admitted into our hospitals who tested positive for COVID-19 were not fully vaccinated.

At this time, we are having to postpone some elective procedures for both pediatric and adult patients. Our Surgical Services teams review cases that are on the schedule for the following day(s) to determine if any need to be postponed due to not having inpatient beds available. The postponements are made on a case-by-case basis, and we try to provide as much advance notice as possible to our patients. 

We want to reiterate the importance of getting the COVID vaccine. They are safe and effective, and current data shows they protect against the new virus variants as well. We encourage all eligible individuals to get the vaccine as soon as possible to defeat the pandemic and get back to normal.

UnityPoint Health takes seriously our responsibility to care for everyone who comes through our doors, delivering high-quality, compassionate care 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. We’re working to maintain and deploy the staff and resources necessary to meet patient demand. The care and safety of our patients and team members remains our highest priority.”

Meanwhile, Broadlawns Medical is monitoring patient flow. 

“Broadlawns currently has 6 hospitalized Covid-19 patients, and none of these patients were/are vaccinated. Broadlawns currently has inpatient capacity in Med-Surg, ICU, and Birthing. We have not canceled elective surgical procedures; however, we are certainly closely monitoring bed capacity as surgeries are being scheduled.”

While hospitals accommodate covid patients, Mary believes everyone should consider getting the vaccine.

“Take the damn vaccination. It protects you. It protects the people around you, and it has a rippling effect over the whole community.”