As COVID-19 cases continue to rise exponentially due to the more-contagious and more-severe Delta variant, ThedaCare, as well as other health systems in the state, are seeing an increase in patients, including COVID inpatient and intensive care. Because of the dramatically rising levels of COVID-19 in Northeast and Central Wisconsin, ThedaCare is nearing staffed-bed capacity to care for inpatient and COVID-19 patients.
“We are facing a serious surge in COVID-19 in the coming days and weeks, and we need our communities’ help to change course and get infections under control,” said Dr. Imran A. Andrabi, ThedaCare President and CEO. “ThedaCare team members are prepared to care for an increased number of COVID patients. We have the technology, the skills and knowledge. We are asking our friends and neighbors to rally again, get vaccinated, take COVID-safe precautions and support each other.”
As of September 10, 2021, there were 1,047 people hospitalized statewide, 322 of them in intensive care, according to the Wisconsin Hospital Association (WHA). The 13 hospitals in the Fox Valley region were caring for 88 COVID-19 patients, including 18 in ICU. According to WHA, as of Sept. 10, in the Fox Valley, 92% of hospital beds were in use.
These numbers demonstrate a surge of cases in the community that is expected to continue for many weeks.
“The ThedaCare Incident Command and Surge teams monitor daily patient levels and make needed adjustments, including staffing, to ensure we can care for the communities we serve,” said Dr. Andrabi. “This includes caring for COVID and non-COVID patients. We must be available to care for those with COVID, and those suffering from serious medical situations such as heart attacks, stroke, trauma and providing cancer care treatments.”
2021 – A Different Situation
Nearly one year ago, in October 2020, ThedaCare announced local hospitals were nearing capacity due to an increase in COVID-19 cases. One year later, the situation is different.
“Last year, in fall 2020, without vaccinations, the majority of people hospitalized with COVID-19 were older, which put them at a greater risk of death,” said Dr. Andrabi. “Now, that group of individuals, those 65 and older, are better protected by vaccinations, with a very high percentage fully vaccinated. What we are seeing at this time is those who are falling ill with COVID-19 are younger and overall healthier. We are grateful that they have the energy to fight the virus longer. It also means their hospital stays are often extended.”
When a patient’s stay can last more than a month, it means fewer beds, team members and resources are available explained Dr. Andrabi. He also noted capacity is not just about the number of beds a hospital system can create, or how many ventilators are available. The most important resource is caregivers.
“Our team members continue to be dedicated to our patients, families and communities,” said Dr. Andrabi. “Their agility and ongoing commitment over the last 18 months is inspiring and greatly appreciated. Every day, they continue to be heroes in our communities.”
During this time of workplace shortages nationally, ThedaCare, like nearly all health care systems, is not immune to these challenges. Through the ability to quickly adjust plans to provide care, ThedaCare has implemented several solutions to help with staffing levels, including:
- Potentially redeploying team members to critical care areas.
- Offering sign-on bonuses.
- Accepting applications for RNs, CNAs, as well as non-patient facing roles such as environmental services and dining services.
- Reviewing contracts for additional temporary resources through other resources and partners, including the Wisconsin Emergency Assistance Volunteer Registry.
Throughout this time ThedaCare has, and continues to be committed to team members, with no layoffs or furloughs.
Community Action Needed
We must have the community’s help to get the spread of the virus under control. ThedaCare encourages people in the region to once again follow guidelines outlined by physicians, public health officials, the CDC, local hospitals and other health care experts, including:
- Get a COVID-19 vaccination if eligible
- Wear a mask in public
- Practice social distancing
- Avoid large gatherings, especially indoors
- Wash hands often with soap and water
- Avoid people who are sick, stay away from others if you are sick
- Get your flu shot early
Since December 24, 2020, ThedaCare has administered nearly 75,000 COVID-19 vaccinations to communities. According to WI DHS, about 50% of Fox Valley residents are fully vaccinated. At ThedaCare, from July 1 to present:
- 79% of positive cases are unvaccinated.
- 79% of hospitalized patients are unvaccinated.
- 83% of the patients in our ICU are unvaccinated.
“We cannot do this alone – it takes every health system, public health entity, school system, businesses and all community members to respond to COVID-19 and to minimize the impact of this surge,” said Dr. Andrabi. “We all must do our part, so we can move forward safely, together.”
For more than 110 years, ThedaCare® has been committed to improving the health and well-being of the communities it serves in Northeast and Central Wisconsin. The organization delivers care to more than 600,000 residents in 17 counties and employs approximately 7,000 health care professionals. ThedaCare has 180 points of care, including seven hospitals. As an organization committed to being a leader in Population Health, team members are dedicated to empowering people to live their unique best lives. ThedaCare also partners with communities to understand needs, finding solutions together, and encouraging health awareness and action. ThedaCare is the first in Wisconsin to be a Mayo Clinic Care Network Member, giving specialists the ability to consult with Mayo Clinic experts on a patient’s care. ThedaCare is a not-for-profit health system with a level II trauma center, comprehensive cancer treatment, stroke and cardiac programs, as well as primary care.
For more information, visit thedacare.org or follow ThedaCare on social media. Members of the media should call Cassandra Wallace, Public and Media Relations Consultant at 920.442.0328 or the ThedaCare Regional Medical Center-Neenah switchboard at 920.729.3100 and ask for the marketing person on call.