Graham Kilmer

Barrett Blasts Aurora for ‘Pausing’ Community Testing

They "have a responsibility" to continue partnering with city and county on testing.

By - Nov 10th, 2020 05:03 pm
Mayor Tom Barrett. File photo.

Mayor Tom Barrett. File photo.

Citing the pressure it’s under to care for an increasing number of COVID-19 inpatients, Advocate Aurora Health Care is ‘pausing’ its community testing in Milwaukee.

COVID-19 continues to accelerate in Milwaukee County and the demand for testing is currently outpacing the available resources at city run testing sites. During a press briefing Tuesday afternoon Mayor Tom Barrett took the company to task for its decision to halt walk-up and drive thru testing at its Milwaukee sites. “I think that it would be a mistake for Aurora to end it’s community testing,” he said.

LeeAnn Betz, a spokesperson for Aurora, told Urban Milwaukee Aurora is closing its walk-up and drive-thru testing sites in Milwaukee, Green Bay and Kenosha “in order to redirect staffing resources where they’re needed most — providing patient care at the bedside.”

During the past two months, Aurora has seen its COVID-19 inpatients multiply more than five-fold, Betz said. “It’s doubled in just the past two-and-a-half weeks,” she said in an email. “Staffing continues to be a key focus, and we acknowledge it’s getting harder.”

“As health care providers, we implore the community to take this virus seriously and continue to be vigilant,” Betz said.

When the pandemic began, Barrett said, the city intentionally partnered with the county, state and local health care providers to coordinate a response to COVID-19 and the challenge of widespread community testing. Barrett noted that Aurora is the only entity that has left that partnership.

“And while I recognize that all healthcare providers are being inundated right now with patients, there’s still I believe, a responsibility for all of our healthcare partners to continue to be our partners in testing as well.”

Aurora at one point was operating two community testing sites. One at its Midtown Clinic at 5818 W. Capital Dr. the other at its Sinai Medical Center at 945 N. 12th St. Then it moved all community testing to the site at Sinai.

“We all have an obligation to be part of testing efforts,” Barrett said. “So I will be talking to representatives from Aurora.”

The number of people seeking access to testing continues to go up. And the Health Department’s testing sites have been operating above intended capacity for more than a week, as Urban Milwaukee has previously reported.

There were 3,919 tests conducted at the city’s three community testing sites — Northwest Health Center, 7630 W. Mill Rd., Southside Health Center, 1639 S. 23rd St. and Miller Park.

I don’t think it’s reasonable,” Barrett said, to expect that the city can “pick up the slack” from Aurora pulling out of community testing. He noted that the city already has limited resources, and because of the nature of CARES Act funding, those resources could run out on Dec. 31st.

“We’re all doing more than we can. And we’re all doing more than we can because unfortunately the spike in cases is requiring us to do so,” Barrett said. “This is not a time to be leaving the partnership.”

Testing is critical to controlling the spread of COVID-19. And right now, the virus is spreading uncontrollably. Dr. Ben Weston, director of medical services for Milwaukee County, said that testing is going up, and so is the positivity rate — which measures what percentage of tests come back positive. This is a sign, he said, that the spread of COVID-19 is accelerating.

More people in the county are hospitalized with COVID-19 than at any other time during the pandemic. “No hospital can keep up with caring for patients on this worsening current trajectory,” Weston said.

You can find a local testing site in the city here. And you can find sites throughout the county here.

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Categories: Health

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