EAU CLAIRE (WQOW)- The wave of COVID-19 cases in northwestern Wisconsin is filling area hospitals to their capacity.
Officials at HSHS Hospitals say intensive care units have been at, or near, capacity in recent weeks, forcing patients to be admitted in the emergency room until beds become available. However, all local hospitals, including HSHS say space is not the main concern, but instead a lack of staffing.
“It’s a ratio of do we have enough people with the right amount of skill to care for the patients we have, and can we continue to take patients that need us?” questioned Jen Drayton, chief nursing officer at HSHS Sacred Heart Hospital.
The same thing is happening in the Mayo Clinic Health System, where over 300 staff are currently quarantining due to COVID-19 exposure. For extra help, Mayo has called on nurses from all over the country to assist, and even retired nurses who haven’t worked with patients in years.
“I’ll be honest, I haven’t been at the bedside in 20 years,” said Pam White, chief nursing officer for Mayo Clinic Health System Northwest Wisconsin. “When we projected where we would be today, you need to have your blue scrubs ready to go. I have my blue scrubs ready to go, and they’re on.”
At Marshfield Health Center, the beds are also filling up, and the workload is taking a toll on healthcare workers on the frontlines.
“The frontlines are ugly,” said Deanna North, ICU supervisor at Marshfield Health Center. “It is awful. It is nothing that in my 20 years of being a nurse I have ever wanted to see, and being able to leave those things at work and go home to raise a family is extremely difficult.
And if there is one message those on the frontlines want to send to the community, it’s to let everyone know that right now, the virus is more real than ever.
“The things that we are seeing, I want the community to know that it is serious,” North said. “If Eau Claire and the Chippewa Valley can do anything to keep our critical care beds open, wash your hands, wear a mask and stay home.”
Officials still stress that no critical care patients are being turned away, but some may be transferred to other hospitals on a case-by-case basis. All Eau Claire hospitals have a contingency plan in place for when beds are completely full, where they can take turns taking in emergency patients, so no single hospital is overwhelmed more than the other.