Hospitals Still Not Using State Fair Facility, But Want It on Standby as Cases Keep Rising

Wisconsin State Fair Park



By Jessica VanEgeren

October 20, 2020

Daily average of new coronavirus cases in Wisconsin nears 3,300.

The seven-day average for new COVID-19 cases in Wisconsin now stands at roughly 3,300 per day — roughly 2,000 more cases being reported daily than one month ago— but even with the influx in cases that have created a record number of hospitalizations, the beds remain empty at the field hospital in West Allis.

The seven-day average includes an increase of more than 4,000 cases reported Tuesday, although this is not a single-day record, as it reflects a lag in reporting due to computer system upgrades performed by the state Department of Health Services (DHS) over the weekend. 

DHS on Tuesday also reported 33 deaths from COVID-19, raising the state’s death toll from the pandemic to 1,633.

The 530-bed hospital at State Fair Park, which has been staffed and able to immediately care for 50 low-acuity coronavirus patients since last Wednesday, still sits empty as a backstop for patients who need less acute care. 

Andrea Palm, secretary-designee of the state Department of Health Services, said Tuesday that the facility remains the state’s “ultimate insurance policy.” She said that while some hospitals remain near capacity, those hospitals are first implementing their own surge capacity plans that they put in place last spring. 

These plans call for sharing beds, staff, and utilizing resources within regions to maximize capacity prior to transferring patients to the Milwaukee suburb. 

“The urgent call we heard from them is they needed and wanted us to open it,” Palm said. “But it is a very dynamic and fluid situation. We want the alternate care facility to be available to them should they need it.” 

As of Tuesday, there are 1,192 coronavirus patients hospitalized in Wisconsin, an increase from Monday. Of that number, 315 are receiving critical care treatment in an intensive care unit, according to the Wisconsin Hospital Association

A spokesperson for HSHS hospitals in eastern Wisconsin told UpNorthNews Tuesday that its system hospitals including St. Vincent Hospital, St. Mary’s Hospital Medical Center, St. Nicholas Hospital, and St. Clare Memorial Hospital are all at near capacity due to significant community spread of COVID-19. 

“While the hospitals’ emergency preparedness plans are activated, we are able to care for all patients and at this time do not need to transport patients to the state field hospital,” said the spokesperson. 

Palm did say the field hospital obtained the necessary clarification last Friday to now administer a drug therapy from Remdesivir to patients.  

The treatment, which became a household name after it was part of the medical regimen given to President Donald Trump when he tested positive for COVID-19, is an intravenous drug that is given to patients over a five-day period. 

“We are able to provide patients who are taking Remdesivir with their remaining doses,” Palm said. “If they are prescribed a five-day dose of treatments and they are coming to the alternate care facility and they still have two days left to take, we will now be able to do that with the clarification we received from the FDA. That is not a barrier to patients who may be able to be cared for at the facility.”

The facility was built in 10 days last spring but was not needed at that time. Hospitals across the state began sounding the alarm earlier this month that they were nearing capacity, prompting the state and hospital administrations in the Milwaukee area to coordinate the effort to get the field hospital staff and ready for patients. 

Christina Lieffring contributed to this report.


CATEGORIES: Coronavirus


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