Madison hospitals operating at capacity as COVID cases rise

UW Health’s Dr. Jeffery Pothof says the hospital is at 100% capacity.
Published: Jan. 4, 2022 at 9:58 PM CST|Updated: Jan. 5, 2022 at 9:46 AM CST
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - A dire situation is hampering hospitals across the Madison area: High capacity numbers.

A steady influx of COVID-19 hospitalizations is pushing local healthcare staff to the brink, forcing hospitals to make challenging decisions because of the high demand and short supply of hospital beds.

UW Health’s Dr. Jeffery Pothof says the hospital is at 100% capacity, “trading patient for patient,” as it tries to help everyone coming to its doors.

And they are not alone. SSM Health says they have operated at roughly 100% capacity for the past 90 days. UnityPoint Health Meriter says they sit at 95% capacity.

A large part of the capacity is eaten up by COVID-19 hospitalizations, which impacts what the hospitals can do on a broad scale. Because of this, fewer transfer patients are accepted, and fewer elective surgeries are taking place. The process of turning people away and being unable to help every one of the many daily transfers, or working to postpone the surgeries that do not need to take place immediately, is painful for people in healthcare.

“We understand that saying yes, then not having the resources here to safely care for that patient, isn’t really doing them any favors,” said Dr. Pothof.

It is a situation SSM Health President Kyle Nondorf calls “tight.”

“Right now, we’re doing the best we can to manage the demands placed on bed needs,” said Nondorf.

As hospital staff try to help everyone, they look for other places to send people. But many hospitals across the state face the same issues as those in Madison.

To make matters worse, staff at the hospitals contend with the fatigue of working at capacity. It is only made worse by the hospitals contending with staff battling sickness in their own ranks.

Hospitals are working at a red-line pace, and Chief Medical Officer Pam Wetzel at UnityPoint Health Meriter says they are exhausted.

“They’re very weary, they’re very stretched, they’re very stressed,” said Wetzel.

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