How your next doctor’s appointment might be impacted by the COVID-19 uptick

MADISON, Wis. — With a recent surge in cases across Wisconsin, you might be wondering whether it’s safe for you to keep your next in-person doctor’s appointment.

The question is a valid one. The Department of Health Services says only about 21 percent of hospital beds statewide are currently available as the 2-week average percentage of positive cases continues to climb.

Area hospitals are monitoring the conditions, and their reactions vary. News 3 Now talked to Upland Hills Health in Dodgeville back when they started to reopen in May after seeing April revenue cut in half. Clinics began seeing patients again at 25 percent capacity, with new protocols in place that included social distancing, mask requirements and more. Nicole Williams has been visiting Upland’s Mineral Point therapy clinic for help with a shoulder injury, and described what those changes were like.

“They called me, first of all, and told me if I’m not feeling well then don’t come,” she said. “When I get here, I wait in my car, call and let them know I’m here, then they come out to the door to get me. [During the appointment] we’re both masked, me and the therapist.”

Since the recent surge, Upland Hills says it has rolled back its reopening by urging older or at-risk patients to return to telehealth visits instead of in-person appointments. While Williams still attends her appointments, people at greater risk of contracting the illness have opted out.

In Madison, Unity-Point Health/Meriter says it has not rolled back its reopening but is monitoring numbers closely. UW Health hasn’t changed its in-person appointment protocol either, but it has implemented practice strategies to prepare staff for any potential scenarios should the uptick continue.

“We basically pretend we got 10 extra COVID patients before noon,” said Dr. Jeff Pothof of UW Health. “What would that look like for the system, what would we turn off, what pieces would move to make us successful?”

Still, UW Health is encouraging people to attend their in-person appointments.

“We feel confident we can keep you and our staff safe as we deliver care to you in that environment,” Dr. Pothof said.