Some hospitals may be ready to transfer patients to COVID-19 Alternate Care Facility ahead of opening

NOW: Some hospitals may be ready to transfer patients to COVID-19 Alternate Care Facility ahead of opening

WEST ALLIS, Wis. (CBS 58) -- The COVID-19 Alternate Care Facility at State Fair Park opens its doors at 8 a.m. Wednesday to help alleviate hospital burden around the state. The opening comes as area doctors see an increase in hospitalizations in Milwaukee County.

The ACF will have 50 patient beds ready to go and will scale up based on the needs of Wisconsin hospitals.

“Our current surge in cases will lead to more hospitalizations, which is why we must be prepared,” said Andrea Palm, secretary-designee, Wisconsin Department of Health Services.

The Wisconsin Department of Health Services says they are communicating with hospitals constantly ahead of Wednesday’s opening, and some hospitals may be ready to transfer patients as soon as the facility opens.

“All of this is very dynamic and our hospital partners and those systems are working within their surge plans and their surge capacity to flex and to accommodate,” said Palm.

Palm didn’t disclose which hospitals would transfer patients to the Alternate Care Facility but says counties north of Milwaukee are the ones seeing an influx of hospitalizations.

“The Fox Valley, the northeast and north central parts of the state are the places where we’re hearing most acute capacity issues,” added Palm.

Last week, ThedaCare in the Fox Valley confirmed a 500-percent increase within the last four weeks.

"This is really the five alarm fire in our communities to say it's time for us to come together and band together and do the things we need to do to be able to safeguard ourselves and the people we love,” said Dr. Imran Andrabi, president and CEO of ThedaCare.

“We’ve now seen a near tripling in COVID hospitalizations in Milwaukee County in about as many weeks,” said Dr. Ben Weston, medical director, Milwaukee County Office of Emergency Management.

Dr. Weston says while Milwaukee County has also seen an increase in hospitalizations, the county is lucky to have large hospital systems with more capacity than rural areas. As of Tuesday, Dr. Weston says 390 ICU beds are being used in the county with several hundred more available. Ventilators are also in good supply.

“But certainly the trajectory we’re seeing here is concerning,” added Dr. Weston.

“We control how many beds in that Alternate Care Facility we may need to use by wearing a mask and staying home as much as possible,” said Palm.

Palm says the facility has capacity to scale up to 530 patients if needed, she does not anticipate hospitals will need to compete for patient beds within the facility.

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