COVID-19 surge stressing health systems

Hospitals and health systems across the region are experiencing high patient volumes and capacity challenges during the current COVID-19 surge. Across the Aspirus Health system – which includes 17 hospitals from Portage, Wisconsin to Laurium, Michigan – patient volumes across all care settings are high.

On Friday, 135 COVID-positive patients were occupying 26 percent of Aspirus inpatient beds. The seven-day average of COVID-positive inpatients across Aspirus has risen to 131 from 103 on November 22. The weekly positivity rate among COVID-19 tests processed by Aspirus has also risen to above 22 percent.

This high level of COVID-19 activity in the region is stressing health systems and their ability to also care for the non-COVID needs of communities.

“We have not had to turn patients away; however patients are having to wait,” said Jeff Wicklander, Aspirus SVP & Aspirus Wausau Hospital President. “Overall, our capacity is over 95 percent. When we look at our critical care we are near capacity, if not at capacity several days of the week.”

Aspirus leverages its system wherever possible to provide the appropriate level of care for each patient. This includes transferring within its system to keep patients local; shifting resources and staffing across departments and facilities; and utilizing its robust home health division to keep people out of the hospital.

“The good news is that we have a very comprehensive system, the tricky part is that we are very, very busy,” Wicklander said. “We’ve been focused on monoclonal antibody therapy which has been very effective. We’ve treated over 2,000 patients with about 50 lives saved based on that treatment.”

There are things everyone can do to help local hospitals throughout the pandemic. Chief among them is to get vaccinated. It is safe and dramatically reduces the risk of infection and serious illness. Community members are also encouraged to choose the appropriate care setting for their health needs and reserve emergency rooms for those that are most critical and emergent.