Sauk County hospitals at risk for reaching capacity due to COVID-19

Nicole Aimone, Editor-in-Chief

Sauk County officials say hospitals in the county are at risk of being overrun with COVID-19 patients if cases continue to rise at the current rate. 

Jeff Jelinek, Emergency Management director and incident commander for COVID-19 said if the virus continues to spread at the same rate daily, within 35 days the county’s number of cases and hospitalizations will have doubled. 

This means that by Nov. 26, the county could see 1,568 new cases of the coronavirus, compared to the 642 new cases the county has seen so far this month. 

Approximately 2.5% or about 16 cases of the virus have needed to be hospitalized in October. Of the hospitalized cases, approximately 13% of those have been admitted to the intensive care unit (ICU).  

Based on the projection of cases doubling by this time next month,  Jelinek estimates that 40 news cases could need to be hospitalized before Thanksgiving. Of those projected 40 cases that will need to be hospitalized, Jelinek estimates that roughly five will be admitted to the ICU.

“If this happens, 50% of our ICU could be filled by COVID patients. This would leave five ICU beds for flu, car accidents, injuries, ect.,” said Jelinek. “Some hospitals have been converting beds to ICU beds. COVID isn’t the only thing that our hospitals are treating.” 

As of Oct. 26, Sauk Prairie Healthcare in Prairie du Sac reports having no patient infected with COVID-19, however the hospital does have rooms designed for COVID-19 patients that are isolated from non-COVID patients, have negative air flow systems and have a separate care team to limit the risk of cross contamination, said Amy Ryan, marketing and community Relations director for the hospital. 

While the hospital does currently have any admitted virus patients, Ryan said the hospital is prepared for the potential by having personal protective equipment, hospital beds and staff ready to handle any virus patients. 

“Sauk Prairie Healthcare, through our pandemic planning has developed robust plans, including strong infection prevention systems to meet the increase in patient demands,” said Ryan. 

Ryan said that despite planning, an influx of COVID patients can affect all areas of a health system. 

“For example it could cause us to have to pause other services such as surgery,” said Ryan. “Additionally, when other health systems are also dealing with an influx, it can limit our ability to transfer patients to tertiary hospitals when a higher level of care is needed.”