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COVID-19 alternate care facility at State Fair Park will need hundreds of health care workers in a week

NOW: COVID-19 alternate care facility at State Fair Park will need hundreds of health care workers in a week

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WEST ALLIS, Wis. (CBS 58) - The coronavirus alternate care facility at State Fair Park will start accepting patients just a week from Tuesday. Now, the race is on to find hundreds of health care workers to staff it.

Alternate care facility officials say the patient rooms are already being built inside the expo center and they will first start out with 130 beds. The facility will eventually have the capability to care of upwards of 750 patients if needed.

Right now there are more than 3,400 coronavirus cases in the state, and more than half is in Milwaukee County.

While efforts to slow the spread seem to be working, doctors say we’re not out of the woods.

“Clearly we’re not at the surge that’s straining our health care system capacity, but we’re also not at such a small level that we’re safe from having an expanded epidemic,” said Dr. Ryan Westergaard, Chief Medical Officer of The Bureau of Communicable Diseases.

“An alternative care facility needs staff to run it, and hospitals and clinics across the state will also need more staff during a potential surge in cases,” said Andrea Palm, Secretary-Designee for Wisconsin Department of Health Services.  

With high demand for health staff for hospitals and alternate care facilities, it doesn’t help that 16-percent of positive cases in Wisconsin are health care workers.

“We are at a very critical point in recruiting,” said Celia Shaughnessy, Chief Human Resources Officer for COVID-19 Alternate Care Facility Milwaukee.

It’s why the state launched the ‘Wisconsin Emergency Assistance Volunteer Registry’ or WEAVR.  

“In situations where you might have some health care workers all from the same location who are sick and you need to replace them with assets from outside that system, this registry can help us pair and match,” adds Palm.

“We are in need of hundreds of workers honestly,” says Shaughnessy.

The alternate care facility is looking for paid and volunteer positions, including doctors and nurse practitioners to registrars.

The state has also put in place more relaxed and expedited licensure procedures for retired nurses who want to go back to work for the ACF.

“Enables my team to very quickly identify you, give you a call and hope to recruit and onboard you within the next week,” adds Shaughnessy.

Even with aggressive hiring happening this week, ACF says their intention is to not pull essential health care workers from area hospitals.

“We want to make sure our hospitals and isolation centers are adequately staffed,” says Shaughnessy.

Palm says initially the ACF will be focused on the needs of the Milwaukee area but they are building transportation plans so if other parts of the state need access to it, they’ll be ready.

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