Madison health systems postpone non-emergent surgeries amid peak capacity

Published: Jan. 6, 2022 at 11:30 AM CST|Updated: Jan. 6, 2022 at 4:23 PM CST
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - Madison-area hospitals announced the postponement Thursday of many non-emergent procedures due to hitting peak capacity numbers.

The three main Madison-area hospital systems- UnityPoint Health- Meriter, UW Health and SSM Health St. Mary’s Hospital- sent a joint release about the postponements, fueled by surging COVID-19 hospitalizations.

UW Health’s chief quality officer Dr. Jeff Pothof said the health system is “extremely short staffed right now.”

“We’re doing our best to care for as many patients as we can, but the need is outpacing our capacity,” said Pothof. “With COVID cases rising and staff out because they’re awaiting test results or have tested positive, we’re hitting our limits.”

The number of staff required to care for patients with COVID-19 paired with the number of staff being out at this time has led the health care agencies to postpone many non-emergent procedures.

“We are asking our community to help keep our health care workers safe and healthy, by continuing to practice COVID-19 safety,” said Dr. Pam Wetzel, chief medical officer at UnityPoint Health – Meriter.

UnityPoint Health-Meriter stated its COVID-19 hospitalizations are currently tied with its prior peak at 179, meaning that taking measures to protect the community from the virus are more important now than ever.

“Because of this new variant being so contagious, we are having more and more staff out more than we’ve ever seen before,” said Wetzel. “That affects our ability to take care of patients and that is a really tough place to be.”

SSM Health St. Mary’s Hospital- Madison President Kyle Nondorf thanked health care workers for the services they have provided the entirety of the pandemic.

“The time for our community to come together for the greater good – and in support of our health care workers – is right now,” Nondorf said. “It is in the best interest of our entire community for everyone to mask up, maintain social distance and become fully vaccinated against COVID-19.”

Officials explained they will reassess on a weekly basis and any patient impacted by the postponements will be contacted by the respective health group.

Several democratic state representatives and state senators asked the public to support health care workers Thursday, including by wearing a mask, getting vaccinated against COVID-19 and limiting large gatherings. The lawmakers who spoke include Rep. Lisa Subeck (D-Madison), State Sen. Melissa Agard (D-Madison) and State Sen. Kelda Roys (D-Madison)

“Our healthcare workers have been our most valuable asset during the COVID-19 pandemic, providing compassionate, quality care for us, our family, friends, and neighbors. Since the start of the pandemic, our doctors, nurses and other hospital staff have made tremendous sacrifices to serve our community in the face of the most challenging circumstances. We are calling on the public to step up for those who provide care for our community by doing their part to stop the spread of the virus. Wear a mask, get vaccinated and boosted, and limit large gatherings. Our hospitals now face a crisis and we can all do our part, working together to protect the healthcare providers who work every day to keep us healthy.”

Representatives Lisa Subeck (D-Madison), Dianne Hesselbein (D-Middleton), Francesca Hong (D-Madison), Shelia Stubbs (D-Madison), Jimmy Anderson (D-Fitchburg), Samba Baldeh (D-Madison), and Sondy Pope (D-Mt. Horeb), along with Senators Melissa Agard (D-Madison), Kelda Roys (D-Madison), and Jon Erpenbach (D-West Point)

In Rock County, public health officials are reporting anywhere from 0 to 5% of beds are available.

“Our healthcare partners are working extremely hard to make sure that there’s capacity for anyone who needs treatment whether it’s for COVID or otherwise,” said Nick Zupan, an epidemiologist for Rock County Public Health Dept. “We’re hearing from our partners that there’s just very limited bed availability at this point due to the increases in COVID-19 hospitalizations.”

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