Bed capacity remains tight at all local hospitals

MADISON, Wis.– More than 2,000 people are in the hospital seeking treatment for COVID-19 in Wisconsin.

156 of those patients are in Dane County.

Chief Quality Officer at UW Health Dr. Jeff Pothof said that means fewer rooms and staff to work on non-COVID patients, too.

“We’re trying to balance the ability take care of COVID-19 patients who require our intensive care units, but at the same time not compromise the care of patients who need our intensive care units for non-COVID care,” Pothof said.

UW Hospital has seven COVID-19 units. Staff is working to coordinate an eighth.

“Everyday is just a little bit worse than the previous day,” Pothof said. “If that trajectory continues on, we will be in a situation where we are making decisions about less than ideal locations to take care of patients who have COVID-19 in the not too distant future.”

UW Hospital is looking at the possibility of using different types of rooms, such as a pre-operative holding bay. Pothof said those rooms might not be equipped with the tools or staff needed to treat patients.

“When you combine less than ideal space with less than ideal staffing, you start to worry about less than ideal outcomes for patients who require care,” Pothof said.

UW Hospital has sent two patients to the alternative care facility in Milwaukee, according to a spokesperson. Staff evaluates patients each day to determine if they could be a candidate to go move to the alternative care facility. Pothof said it depends on a number of conditions, including if the patient wants to be moved.

“I think there is still some uncertainty (about) what does it mean to be in an alternative care facility and that can inhibit our ability to get those patients who are appropriate for the ACF to the ACF,” Pothof said.

Pothof said the measures taken at the beginning of the pandemic helped flatten the curve. Without those in place, the state is facing the consequences.

“We need to take this a fair bit more seriously and figure out how we are going to get on top of this, because right now the train is heading toward a cliff and we need to figure out how to stop the breaks before we get there,” Pothof said.

Bed capacity is tight at St. Mary’s Hospital, where staff is moving through SSM Health’s surge plan.

St. Mary’s Hospital President Kyle Nondorf said COVID-19 patients are isolated to designated areas in the hospital. The hospital has about 40 COVID-19 patients as of Tuesday afternoon.

“We are close to needing to expand to put more positive COVID patients outside of those designated areas,” Nondorf said.

The more COVID-19 patients hospitalized, the less space St. Mary’s has for non-COVID-19 patients. Nondorf said the the surgical procedure schedule is adjusted as needed.

“We tier those patients to classify which ones are appropriate for us to continue to move forward,” Nondorf said.

The hospital has sent one patient to the alternative care facility, according to a SSM Health spokesperson.

Nondorf said people need to continue wearing masks, staying distant from people outside of their household and keeping appropriate hand hygiene.

“It’s going to take us all coming together to get through the pandemic,” Nondorf said. “We are supportive of what the governor and other folks are trying to do in this space from a community health perspective.”

Meriter Hospital has cared for a positive COVID-19 patient every day since March 17, according to Emergency Preparedness Manager Nathan Bubenzer.

Bubenzer said the hospital averages between 55 and 60 COVID-19 patients every day.

“We have seen the number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients doubled, maybe tripled what it was at the beginning of October,” Bubenzer said.

Meriter Hospital has not sent a patient to the alternative care facility yet, according to Bubenzer.

“We have been watching for patients who would be suitable for the facility. It’s more the case that the relatively strict guidelines that the facility has to accept those patients,” Bubenzer said. “We have not found a suitable patient to be able to transfer over to that facility at this point.”

Bubenzer said although bed capacity is tight, finding enough staff to care for patients is the real challenge.

It’s going to take a community effort to avoid overwhelming the healthcare system.

“We support whatever measures that can be taken to stop the spread and ease the surge, both in general in the public and on healthcare systems,” Bubenzer said.