Hospital systems in La Crosse at or near capacity with COVID and non-COVID patients

Gundersen Health System issued a warning that it is getting full

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT) – Gundersen Health System is issuing a warning to the community — its hospital is filling up.

In what is being called “a dire situation,” Gundersen is operating at or near capacity in La Crosse with COVID and non-COVID patients.

The main reason is rising cases, particularly from the omicron variant.

“We are expecting an onslaught of cases over the ensuing four to six weeks for sure,” said Dr. Michael Dolan, who practices internal medicine at Gundersen. “And that bodes poorly for those of us who are trying to run a hospital.

Most COVID patients who are hospitalized now are younger than 70.

About 80 percent of all COVID patients in the hospital are not vaccinated.

“Definitely if they’re younger, that tends to be the case,” Dolan said.

Mayo Clinic Health System in La Crosse also is struggling to keep up with patients, which isn’t a new phenomenon.

“The Mayo Clinic hospitals have been operating at or near capacity for months now,” said Dr. June Chae, who works in intensive care.

Mayo has not been shipping patients to rural hospitals, Chae said.

But it’s possible patients experience delays in care she says because of the lack of staffing at almost every health-care system, she said.

“This is something that we are certainly encountering,” Chae said. “And we are in dire straights right now.”

This is the second year in a row when a winter surge in COVID cases has strained hospital systems.

Most pandemics have a three-year cycle, said Dolan, who doesn’t expect winter surges to last forever.

“I’m expecting probably another cycle, another yearly cycle, and then hopefully by that time we’ve got enough people vaccinated,” Dolan said.

But at the same time, influenza cases also are rising.

Crowding could get even worse before this winter surge is over, Dolan said, adding, “We are going to be overwhelmed here if something doesn’t change drastically.”

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