MADISON, Wis. — Gov. Tony Evers on Wednesday announced the launch of the Alternate Care Facility at the Wisconsin State Fair Park, a direct response to the increase in hospitalizations around Wisconsin.
Hospital systems requested the activation of an emergency field hospital. Leaders in Green Bay, Appleton, Neenah and Wausau say that their ICUs are at capacity. They are being forced to transfer patients to other facilities and are understaffed. The trifecta of factors led to the ask.
In a statement, Gov. Evers says that hospitals are overwhelmed due to September's surge, and fear reaching capacity.
On Tuesday, Oct. 6, Wisconsin Department of Health Services reported that hospitals were at 84% capacity.
As of Wednesday, all seven healthcare emergency readiness coalition regions were considered to have "high" or "very high" coronavirus activity.
Also on Wednesday, Wisconsin DHS reported 141 new hospitalizations. This record-high for the state brings the total number of hospitalizations since the beginning of the pandemic up to 7,951. State hospitals are still at 84% capacity.
On the same day, Wisconsin Hospital Association reports there are 873 Wisconsinites in the hospital. 219 of those are ICU patients. 398 people are on ventilators or a form of ventilatory equipment.
ACF will start taking coronavirus patients next week.
ACF is not a hospital and will not accept walk-ins. Instead, they will coordinate with hospitals and other healthcare systems to admit coronavirus patients who are not seriously ill, but still need professional medical treatment.
In a statement, Gov. Evers says the ACF "will serve as a transitional facility to offer oxygen and medical care for COVID-19 patients who still need support in their recovery. The goal of this facility is to transition COVID-19 patients who are less ill out of hospitals and reserve hospital beds for patients who are more ill and in need of hospital-level care."
Details regarding the use of the facility, as well as facility staffing levels, have yet to be released.
“We hoped this day wouldn’t come, but unfortunately, Wisconsin is in a much different, more dire place today and our healthcare systems are beginning to become overwhelmed by the surge of COVID-19 cases,” says Gov. Evers. “This alternative care facility will take some of the pressure off our healthcare facilities while expanding the continuum of care for folks who have COVID-19. I want to thank the many frontline healthcare workers and first responders who are caring for our most vulnerable COVID-19 patients and I urge all Wisconsinites to step up to help these folks by staying home as much as possible so we can flatten the curve, prevent hospitalizations, and save lives.”
A month ago, on Sept. 7, Wisconsin had 289 COVID-19 patients in hospitals.
That number has just about tripled in the course of a month.
On Tuesday, 853 Wisconsinites were hospitalized due to coronavirus. Hospitals around the state admitted a total of 71 new COVID-19 patients in just 24 hours.
“Our hospital system is strained and in some areas of the state reaching capacity and at risk of being overwhelmed,” says DHS secretary-designee Andrea Palm. “And as COVID-19 cases rise, hospitals across the state are experiencing critical staffing shortages – largely due to staff members experiencing infection or exposure to the virus in their communities. This is why we need every Wisconsinite to follow our recommendations and take this seriously. When hospitals are at capacity, it doesn’t matter if you need care because of COVID-19 or a heart attack. We have to disrupt transmission so Wisconsinites can get the care they need.”
Hospitals are also reporting staffing shortages, which is directly related to healthcare workers either contracting or being exposed to coronavirus. Staffing shortages are happening in all seven HERC regions.