Wisconsin requests federal help for staff-strapped hospitals

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Wisconsin’s top health official said Wednesday that 270 health care facilities in the state have requested staffing help and the state has asked for medical reserve teams from the federal government to provide relief for long term care facilities facing worker shortages.

The state reported three additional positive COVID-19 cases from the new omicron variant on Wednesday, after the first case was recorded on Saturday. The vast majority of cases, more than 99%, continue to be from the delta variant, said the state’s chief medical officer Dr. Ryan Westergaard.

“If you think this doesn’t impact you, you’d be wrong,” Gov. Tony Evers said at a briefing. “We can’t just let our hospitals go into crisis mode, folks.”

RELATED: ‘We are at full. Period:’ Wisconsin health officials share concerns over rising COVID-19 hospitalizations

Evers and health officials urged people to get vaccinated and take other precautions, such as wearing masks, to slow the spread of the virus and help take the strain off of hospitals. As of Tuesday, more than 56% of the state’s total population and more than 67% of those over 18 were fully vaccinated.

People who are not vaccinated are 11-times more likely to be hospitalized and 15-times more likely to die than those who have been inoculated against COVID-19, according to the state health department.

There were 1,630 people hospitalized due to COVID-19 as of Tuesday, up by 212 over the previous week. Nearly all intensive care beds — 97% — are currently filled as are 98% of intermediary care beds, said Wisconsin Department of Health Services Secretary Karen Timberlake. Hospitals could admit more patients if there was more staff available, she said.

“We are full. Period,” Eric Conley, CEO of Milwaukee’s Froedtert Hospital, told Wisconsin Public Radio. “It’s really impacting, impeding care for those patients who are not COVID that need the care getting in because getting to our beds is just very, very hard.”

Hospital administrators say they have had to turn some patients away even when they needed emergency care.

“Unfortunately, it’s not looking good and I don’t think it’s looking good for anybody across the state or even across state lines. Our ICUs are pretty much full,” Dr. Imran Andrabi, CEO of ThedaCare, told Wisconsin Public Radio.