La Crosse healthcare facilities partner with National Guard to help ease bed and staff shortages

Town of Shelby, Wis. (WKBT) — During the pandemic, many beds have been empty due to a staff shortage, but with a new partnership between Gundersen Health System, Hillview Health Care Center, and the National Guard, beds will be filled with patients that need long term care.

Healthcare workers are overwhelmed and do not have have the staff or space to treat patients.

“We are trained, we are positioned, we are built to care for acute care issues,” said Gundersen Health System’s chief operating and nursing officer Heather Schimmers. “We are not a long term care facility.”

This has lead to a shortage of acute care hospital beds at Gundersen.

“We’re set up to treat, but we’re not able to get to because we have no beds available,” Schimmers said.

A new partnership with Hillview Healthcare Center and the National Guard will allow Gundersen Health System to focus on short term care patients.

“Many patients that are appropriate for [Hillview’s] setting are being housed in the acute care setting in the hospital,” medical director of Hillview Elizabeth Cogbill, said.

Gundersen nurses will work at Hillview, helping with the Hillview’s staffing shortage. The partnership will allow Hillview to accept an additional 28 patients from Gundersen.

“We wanted to do what we could because we have open space at Hillview, however, we don’t have staff,” Hillview director of nursing Karlie Hurlbert, said.

The National Guard will also work at Hillview as certified nursing assistants.

“Which is fantastic, as we all know there is a national CNA shortage,” Schimmers said.

Gundersen says the new system will help ease the workload of certain departments.

“A bit of a relief valve through our emergency department in having to hold patients there, not having a bed to put them into,” Schimmers said.

Lowering stress for healthcare workers.

“This is the future of creative and innovative healthcare working together as partners,” Cogbill said.

And increasing support for patients.

“Our patients, people who reside in our community, will be in the right place receiving the right care,” Cogbill, said.

Staff members are currently going through training and orientation this week. They hope to fill some of these beds in the upcoming weeks. Hillview says this partnership was over one year in the making.