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Healthcare systems pushed to “breaking point” as Department of Health Services issues Public Health Advisory

Aspirus Health

Our healthcare systems are at their breaking point.

Dr. William Melms did not sugar coat the current COVID situation in the Marshfield Clinic Health System. Melms is the systems’ Chief Medical Officer.

During Monday’s Department of Health Services briefing, he said COVID cases and hospitalizations have been rising since the delta variant emerged at the end of this summer with little reprieve.

Melms said Marshfield Clinic converted an entire floor into an inpatient unit at their main hospital in Marshfield.

The medical ICU has been converted into a COVID unit.

The issue isn’t space.

It’s the sheer number of cases that require a high level of care and a lack of staff to give it to them.

“We are currently turning away over 100 referrals a week from hospitals, facilities that need our help. Space is tight is our facilities, but mostly we just don’t have the staff to care for everyone who needs our help,” said Melms.

Staff has been pulled in from all different disciplines to provide support.

Marshfield has discontinued all elective surgeries that require an inpatient bed.

Melms said what’s most discouraging about this surge is how preventable it is.

“The course and nature of this pandemic has been driven by the unvaccinated,” he said.

The COVID-19 vaccines work to prevent hospitalizations and death. He urges people toget vaccinated and get your boosters if you’ve been putting it off.

“While I respect that vaccination is a personal choice, it is important that everyone understands that our healthcare organizations have been pushed to the breaking point and it is quite possible that Omicron will push us beyond the breaking point,” said Melms.

Wisconsin health officials are bracing for a rapid rise in COVID-19 cases.

The Department of Health Services has issued a public health advisory Monday. It’s calling on all Wisconsinites to take action to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

The highly-contagious Omicron variant of COVID-19 has been found in Wisconsin.

There are 19 confirmed cases of the variant.

It’s anticipated to cause a rapid increase in disease activity in the coming weeks.

“Everywhere that it’s being looked at, it’s being detected, it’s been increasing rapidly. From single digit numbers to some places in the 20 to 30 percent nationally and internationally,” said Wisconsin Chief Medical Officer Dr. Ryan Westergaard. “We have to use the evidence that we have to the best of our ability. Our expectation is that it’s going to be circulating at high levels very shortly if it’s not already.”

With the state currently experiencing a high number of COVID cases and hospitalizations, DHS says there’s a severe risk the case will overwhelm the healthcare system.

This would mean anyone that needs medical care, not just COVID patients, may not be able to get it.

“Delta, Omicron, and seasonal influenza are all serious threats to all of us because of the threats they pose to capacity in our healthcare systems. We all have a stake in making sure hospitals care for people who need them,” said DHS Secretary-Designee Karen Timberlake.

The Public Health Advisory urges, but does not order, people to get vaccinated, wear a mask whenever you’re with people outside your household, and stay home if you’re showing any symptoms of COVID.

Katie Thoresen is WXPR's News Director/Vice President.
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