Gundersen Health System expanding COVID treatment to support influx of patients

Published: Sep. 3, 2021 at 6:20 PM CDT
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LA CROSSE, Wis. (WEAU) - A rapid rise in hospitalizations is causing Gundersen Health System to expand the scope of its COVID treatment.

The hospital announced Friday that an overflow of patients from its COVID unit are now being cared for within individual rooms in a second area.

A third area is also being used as a negative pressure unit.

Operations Vice President Mike McKee says Gundersen has seen a steady increase in COVID patients since the beginning of August, but the last two weeks the hospital has been treating between 25-35 people.

In addition, McKee adds that anywhere from 5-8 of those patients are in critical care.

McKee says there is additional concern about even more patients being admitted over the next few weeks.

“We’ve got the holiday weekend this weekend and we’ve got all the students going back to school, whether it’s the colleges and universities, or it’s the high school, elementary, middle school kids,” McKee explained.

He says the hospital is developing plans in case the recent surge continues, which may lead to the return of some policies that were implemented last year.

“It [the plan] would be increasing our capacity for COVID-positive patients, and what that would mean is we’d have to start slowing services down just like we had to do last fall,” McKee said.

Elective surgeries may be put on hold if more COVID patients are hospitalized.

McKee says the hospital is also dealing with staffing shortages, so members of Gundersen’s leadership teams are pitching in to help with treatment.

While McKee didn’t have specific information on the age groups of the patients who are hospitalized, he says the majority are unvaccinated, but there are some patients in the hospital who are fully vaccinated.

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