Local Hospitals Near Capacity Levels Due to COVID-19

Health Systems Stress Need for Community Action

October 7, 2020

NEENAH, Wis. – Due to the dramatically rising levels of COVID-19 in Northeast and Central Wisconsin, ThedaCare is nearing staffed-bed capacity to care for inpatient and COVID-19 patients. 

This situation related to COVID-19 patients who need inpatient care is not impacting ThedaCare’s ability to safely care for patients with other emergency or routine care needs.  The organization is urging the community to seek care in emergent situations, for things like heart attacks and strokes, and to continue planned and preventative care appointments at its outpatient clinics and through telehealth options. 

“It is important for our communities to know that hospitalizations have increased at an alarming rate in the past four weeks,” said Dr. Imran A. Andrabi, ThedaCare President and CEO. “Our work done early on in the pandemic allowed us to prepare for what we are now experiencing, allowing us to be nimble in allocating resources to serve our communities. We are executing our plans to do everything we can to provide excellent, safe care. That said, we face a serious situation today, as the Fox Valley region continues to experience a rapid surge in COVID-19 cases.”

Ensuring adequate staff to manage current and projected volumes is a top priority. Since March, plans to triple bed capacity at ThedaCare to address the surge have been dependent on the ability to staff those beds. Over the past week, up to 250 ThedaCare team members have been absent each day due to illness, exposure or quarantining, for themselves or their families.

“We have one of the hardest working, most dedicated and compassionate teams of caregivers in health care,” said Dr. Andrabi. “It is important to remember that capacity includes hospital beds and the team members required to care for the patients in the beds. Having a large number of patients who are positive for COVID-19 in our communities increases the likelihood our team members could be exposed to the virus.”

ThedaCare is looking at all operations, multiple times a day, to create efficiencies and enhance effectiveness. We are actively working to optimize resources, both human and physical, to help manage rapidly increasing volumes and ensure our ability to continue to serve the entire community. 

Alternate Care Facility Resources 
According to the Wisconsin Department of Health Services, the state continued to see record levels of COVID-19 hospitalizations on Monday, October 5, with 782 COVID-19 patients in hospitals. 

It is possible that patients who require hospitalization may be transferred to other hospitals within ThedaCare, or to systems outside of the region.  As state leaders announced today, government officials and other health systems are actively working to stand up a temporary 530-bed alternative care facility on the State Fairgrounds in West Allis. Its goal is to transition patients who are less ill out of hospitals, reserving beds for those needing more intensive care. Patients who meet specific, pre-determined criteria from the state would have the potential to be transferred to the alternate care facility.  

“We will continue to do more to operate as efficiently and effectively as possible,” said Dr. Andrabi. “We have been diligently working with local, state and federal authorities including the White House, HHS, FEMA, and US and state legislature to continue to look for creative solutions.”

Public Urged to Seek Necessary Emergency Care  
At ThedaCare, the first priority is the health and wellness of patients, families and team members. Every decision made is centered on the people of our communities, ensuring access to comprehensive care, close to home. While some patients may be transferred to hospitals within ThedaCare and outside of the system during this COVID surge, our communities are urged to seek emergency care when needed. 

“ThedaCare has provided care in our communities for more than 110 years and that commitment continues during our response to COVID-19,” said Dr. Andrabi. “We do not want people to delay care over fears of the virus or capacity concerns.” 

ThedaCare has implemented extensive safeguards to protect both patients and team members, including screening, required masking, enhanced visitor restrictions, PPE usage and more. Further, every effort is being made to continue isolating COVID-19 cases in our facilities, and we are encouraging virtual visits, when appropriate.

Community members are encouraged to visit thedacareCOVID19.org for online resources, including a symptom checker. 

Community Action 
We must have the community’s help to get the spread of the virus under control. Too many people in our region are not following the guidelines outlined by physicians, public health officials, the CDC, local hospitals and other health care experts, including: 
  • Practice social distancing
  • Avoid large gatherings, especially indoors
  • Wear a mask in public
  • Avoid handshakes, hugs and kisses
  • Wash hands often with soap and water
  • Clean and disinfect common household surfaces
  • Avoid people who are sick, stay away from others if you are sick
  • Get your flu shot early
“We have been proactive in communicating with community members that failing to practice CDC’s guidance on slowing the spread, including avoiding crowds, wearing a mask in public and washing hands regularly, could lead to hospitalizations increasing beyond our capacity and we would need to send patients out of our region for care,” explained Dr. Andrabi. “We cannot do this alone – it takes every health system, public health entity, school system, businesses and all community members to respond to COVID-19. We all need to do our part, so we can move forward safely, together.”

Like everyone else in our communities, health care workers are trying to do their job safely and effectively, and they have been incredible partners in ensuring can care for patients.  

“Our doctors, nurses and other team members live in our communities – the same communities where the virus is currently spreading at dangerous and unprecedented levels,” said Dr. Andrabi. “This increases the likelihood people will be exposed to the virus, including our staff. The only way to change the current situation is for people to take individual and collective action today to keep themselves and others safe.”