“We get to a point where we’re just tapped out,” Local health systems struggle with rising COVID-19 hospitalizations

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT) — Hospitals in our area have around 83% of beds unavailable, according to the Wisconsin Department of Health Services.

“We are pressing record highs in admissions, when you count COVID patients and all the other folks who need our care,” said Scott Rathgaber, MD CEO of Gundersen Health System.

Gundersen and Mayo Clinic health systems are really feeling the strain.

“We get to a point where we’re just tapped out as healthcare as a whole,” said Jason Fratzke, Chief Nursing Officer at Mayo Clinic Health System.

On Wednesday, the La Crosse County Health Department reported a rapid increase in hospitalizations, and health officials believe the number will only continue to increase

“I don’t even think we’re at a peak yet. So I think we’ll continue to see a climb for hospitalizations for COVID related illness,” said Fratzke.

Both health systems say staffing is seeing the negative effects as well.

“Record highs of people who are out with both infections and exposures, and that is putting a great strain on our ability to care for those coming to see us,” said Rathgaber.

Officials say community spread has played the biggest role in this outbreak.

“If you’re in a group of 10 in our region today, it’s likely that one person, about a 30% chance, that one person in that group is positive,” said Fratzke.

Both health systems urge people to rethink holiday plans, take precautions and think about their own families.

“You want there to be space in the hospital to care for your loved ones, and we are struggling to make that happen and we need your help in order to continue to provide care,” said Rathgaber.

In an effort to help with the hospitalizations in Northwestern Wisconsin, our local Mayo Clinics have been accepting overflow patients. But with the rise in cases here, officials say they will be putting that to a halt.