Guest Opinion: Iowans, there is hope


Roman Slabach

UI Hospitals and Clinics CEO Suresh Gunasekaran sits at the University Main Hospital on Dec. 3, 2018.

Fellow Iowans,

It’s easy to be overwhelmed by the news about the COVID-19 health crisis, especially as cases increase in our state and local communities. While it is unlike anything we’ve seen before, Iowa’s health care workers want you to know there is hope.

If you or someone you know gets this virus, you should know it doesn’t automatically mean death, or even admission to a hospital.

As a health care provider in Iowa that has seen the most patients with COVID-19 to date, we’ve learned a great deal about the disease and developed a playbook that has had promising results. More important, what we have learned tells us that there is real reason for optimism.

About 80% of people who are diagnosed with COVID-19 have not needed to be hospitalized.

Of the nearly 200 confirmed COVID-19 patients we’ve treated at University of Iowa Hospitals & Clinics, the vast majority have been able to rest and heal in the comfort of their own home through our virtual hospital program.

A team of nurses, physicians, pharmacists, and support staff manage the patient’s treatment at home under close supervision and telehealth monitoring. This personalized and coordinated approach delivers care in a way that best protects the safety and well-being of our patients and our caregivers.

It begins with easy access to screenings. A dedicated COVID-19 video-enabled screening process is available by calling 319-384-9010. To date, we have completed over 5,000 telehealth screenings for concerned Iowans. Those with symptoms who need further care or testing are seen at a dedicated clinic.

We have been able to create our own internal testing capacity on multiple platforms. At the moment, we are performing more than 100 tests a day, with more testing capability to come. We continue to work in consultation with the Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH) to determine the appropriate indications for large-scale COVID-19 tests.

The vast majority of patients with COVID-19 patients who have been admitted to our hospital have survived and been able to return to home to continue their lives.

We are very fortunate to have care teams with significant experience in management of complex conditions, as well as some of the leading intensive care specialists in the country. What we have found is that with a team-based approach and customized patient care plans, the majority will survive this illness.

We continue to learn from the patients in our care and are participating, with patient approval, in exclusive national clinical trials to treat COVID-19 with drugs like Remdesivir. UI Health Care researchers are also exploring a variety of potential options to neutralize the virus.

University of Iowa Health Care continues to make important strides—in testing, treatment, research, and our preparedness—so that we continue to have every tool in our toolbox so that you can continue to have hope.

At this point, less than 10% of the patients we’ve tested at UI Health Care have been positive for the virus.

That said, we do expect that the number of COVID-19 cases in Iowa will rise over the weeks to come, and we are prepared. We are following the guidance of our world-renowned epidemiologists and infection control experts and are ready for a surge in patients requiring inpatient care.

And while our team will do its part, you can continue help slow the spread and keep our communities safe. We urge you to follow Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and IDPH guidelines, including staying home whenever possible, using social distancing, washing your hands often and isolating if ill.

I want to share how much members of our team appreciate your support. We are very fortunate to have world-class providers, nurses, researchers, and staff who demonstrate the humble heroism and spirit of collaboration that make us proud to be Iowans.  We want to thank the many hospitals and physicians across the state that choose to work with us on better serving all Iowans.

While the weeks to come will be challenging, you should remain hopeful.

I remain hopeful because of the commitment our team has to serving our friends and neighbors as we meet this unprecedented moment together.

We stand with you, Iowa. #InThisTogether

Suresh Gunasekaran, MBA
Chief Executive Officer, University of Iowa Hospitals & Clinics
Associate Vice President, University of Iowa Health Care