Gundersen Health System ‘significantly limited’ in providing elective surgeries

Facilities are at or near capacity on a daily basis because of the COVID surge, placing burdens on those who need elective procedures

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT) — Wisconsin hit a record for new cases of COVID-19 in a single day, with more than 8,000.

Gundersen Health System leaders say their hospitals continue to operate at or near capacity.

They hope the pressure will drop off soon, but with omicron causing a new surge, it’s anyone’s guess.

“When the curve starts to improve, I can’t tell you,” Gundersen Health System CEO Scott Rathgaber said.

The La Crosse hospital carries nearly 40 COVID patients daily, Rathgaber said. Most of the patients, who generally are not vaccinated, are ending up in the intensive care units, he said.

“Our staff continue to care for these very ill patients on a day-to-day basis,” Rathgaber said. “And so, I think it’s concerning.”

A full hospital also places burdens on those with other diseases or health problems.

Elective surgeries in the hospital are “significantly limited” right now, he said.

“I think people don’t understand that our pandemic is not just about COVID,” Rathgaber said.

Mayo Clinic Health System in La Crosse is not limiting elective surgeries, a representative said.

But the health-care system is seeing more children who are COVID positive.

says some children end up testing positive even though they’re being admitted for something else, said Dr. Gregory Poland.

“For the most part, when people are admitted to the hospital — particularly children — regardless of why they’re coming into the hospital, they’re COVID tested,” Poland said.

And Rathgaber says he can assume the Omicron variant is fueling these hospitalizations, which are more often than not infecting those not vaccinated.

“It is very clear to us that whether it’s the Omicron variant or the Delta variant, that vaccination does protect you from needing to be hospitalized or dying from the variants,” Rathgaber said.

Rathgaber says many hospital workers are working overtime hours to care for these patients.

Experts around the country are predicting that the Omicron variant will peak sometime this month.

Studies so far show omicron is responsible for fewer hospitalizations than Delta.

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