34 counties in Wisconsin don’t have ICU beds; how those hospitals care for COVID patients

Hospitals find other ways to get patients the care they need

ADAMS COUNTY, Wis. — There are 34 counties in Wisconsin that do not have any ICU beds. In a pandemic like this, it’s difficult for people to understand how these hospitals handle patients who need more serious care.

While Milwaukee County has the highest number of ICU beds in the state with 381 beds, Adams County has the highest number of at risk people in relation to its population at 37%, with no ICU beds.

Gundersen Moundview Hospital’s Director of Quality and Infection Control Judy Nowicki said the hospital has been around for 60 years and has never had any ICU beds.

Nowicki said the hospital transfers about 30 people per month to hospitals that have ICU beds.

“The Gundersen Health System would be our first choice because we are a part of that system,” she said. “Other options would be UW Health, Meriter or St. Mary’s.”

So far, they’ve been lucky. With only one positive COVID case, which they were able to treat at Gundersen Moundview Hospital, they haven’t had to worry about the what ifs.

“If we have a higher acute patient, we would use Telehealth to contact a specialist at Gundersen Health System in Lacrosse and they could examine that patient remotely,” Nowicki said.

Nowicki said they do have a plan at Gundersen Moundview Hospital in case there is a surge of COVID patients.

“We’ve opened up a wing in our hospital where we can isolate the non-critical COVID patients as well as those that are being tested,” Nowicki said.

If they come across a COVID patient who needs ICU care, Nowicki said, “We do have an agreement that if we have an ICU patient here, we could move our ICU patient and in return, we could take a patient from them. If they were having a surge also, then we could take a less acute patient to our facilities.”

While it may seem pertinent to have an ICU bed, many Wisconsin hospitals are prepared to get patients the care they need, regardless of which hospital they get it from.

“We haven’t had to put this in place as of yet but we are prepared if we need to do so,” Nowicki said.

To find out how many ICU beds are in your county, you can search here. To see how many beds are available in Wisconsin, search here.