Jeramey Jannene

Alternate Care Facility Admits First Patient

As Wisconsin sets record for COVID-19 hospitalizations, overflow facility in West Allis accepts patients.

By - Oct 21st, 2020 05:15 pm
Wisconsin National Guard members support the construction of the Alternate Care Facility in April 2020. Image from Wisconsin National Guard Public Affairs Office. The appearance of U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) visual information does not imply or constitute DoD endorsement.

Wisconsin National Guard members support the construction of the Alternate Care Facility in April 2020. Image from Wisconsin National Guard Public Affairs Office

One week after state officials announced the opening of a field hospital constructed in April as a relief valve for overburdened hospitals, the facility has accepted its first patient.

The news comes as the Department of Health Services reported a record 1,192 active hospitalizations and a record 218 new admissions on Tuesday for patients with positive COVID-19 cases. Wednesday’s totals were 1,190 and 167. DHS reported a record 48 deaths Wednesday.

Located in the 200,000-square-foot exposition center at Wisconsin State Fair Park in West Allis, the facility has 530 beds for COVID-19 positive patients with minimal care needs. The facility has 296 beds with in-line oxygen. The total number of beds could ultimately be expanded to 754.

The Alternate Care Facility (ACF) is intended to serve as a relief valve for strained or overburdened hospitals, of which a growing number are in the state’s northeast quadrant.

DHS Secretary-designee Andrea Palm said hospitals were first exhausting their shared resource plans before transferring patients to the ACF. Those plans include temporary conversion of existing spaces, relocating beds and redirecting patients to other hospitals. “It’s a very dynamic and fluid situation,” she said Tuesday during a press briefing. “What you are seeing them do right now is deploy those plans.”

Patients, aged 18 to 60, that have been hospitalized for at least 48 hours can be transported to the facility from any Wisconsin hospital.

“They are patients that are in the last few days of a normal hospitalization,” said facility CEO Debra Standridge, the retired CEO of Ascension Wisconsin, during a press briefing last week. She said individuals would be expected to stay in the facility for three to six days. The facility will not accept patients that were recently in an intensive care unit.

“We are thankful to have this facility available to Wisconsinites and our hospitals, but also saddened that this is where Wisconsin is at today,” said Governor Tony Evers in a press release announcing the first patient. “Folks, please stay home. Help us protect our communities from this highly-contagious virus and avoid further strain on our hospitals.”

The state is funding the facility through its surge reserve of federal CARES Act funding. Patients receiving care at the facility will not be charged.

Gold Cross Ambulance was contracted to transport the patients by ambulance to the facility. Patients must meet a number of health benchmarks to be eligible, including have a temperature of 100 degrees or less.

As of last week, Standridge reported the facility had staffing to immediately accommodate up to 50 individuals. Standridge, however, said current staffing levels would support an increase in capacity to 75 or 100 patients. The medical team consists of a mix of experienced physicians, registered nurses, pharmacists and other medical professionals.

“We have staff from all over the United States,” said Standridge. “We are very grateful that they heard the call and want to be here in Wisconsin.”

A public webpage on the DHS website provides information on the facility, including the number of patients.

“With record high numbers of positive cases, hospitalizations, and staffing shortages, there has never been a more critical time for Wisconsinites to act and help stop the spread,” said Palm in a press release. “That’s why we ask all Wisconsinites to do their part. Stay home, wear a mask and stay six feet apart when you go out for your essential errands, avoid gatherings and events, and wash your hands. These steps are some of the most effective tools we have to overcome this pandemic.”

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Categories: Health

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