Surge in virus cases poses potential problems for Wisconsin's hospital workforce, PPE

NOW: Surge in virus cases poses potential problems for Wisconsin’s hospital workforce, PPE

MILWAUKEE COUNTY, Wis. (CBS 58) - Doctors say Friday’s new record case numbers are "unbelievable," and with hospitals nearing capacity in many areas of the state, including Milwaukee County, they say the surge in cases poses problems for hospitals.

As of Friday, Milwaukee County only had 12-percent of their hospital beds available, and 75 percent of ICU beds are taken.

“The case numbers are really unbelievable—we’ve never seen numbers quite this high,” said Dr. Agnes Kresch, infectious disease physician at Prevea Health.

Some doctors say the two biggest problems they face are resource constraints and hospital capacity as case numbers soar in Wisconsin.  

“The real issue is where does that leave the rest of the patients who are still coming in with their strokes and heart attacks, and how do we find places for them?” added Dr. Kresch.

A month ago, less than 4-percent of hospital patients in Milwaukee County were COVID-19 positive, now that number has jumped to more than 10-percent. But Milwaukee County isn’t unique. A majority of hospitals in the state have their hands full.

“There may be some small variations among health systems but everyone is having to think about what the next phase may look like,” said Dr. Nasia Safdar, medical director for infection prevention at UW-Health.

“The whole coronavirus issue is a wildcard, this is unprecedented.  I don’t know what’s going to happen,” said Dr. Kresch.

As of Friday, Wisconsin DHS data shows nearly 9,600 COVID-19 cases are health care workers.

Health care workers will also get ill and they’ll come down with COVID and that impacts the workforce, I think the other thing is it places a lot of stress and causes fatigue and burnout,” added Dr. Safdar.

Doctors say while PPE and testing have both come a long way since March, if case numbers continue growing, then adequate PPE and testing supplies could be in danger.

“It’s sufficient for the current state, but if things get a lot worse will the supply chain be able to keep up? I don’t think we have confidence that will be the case,” said Dr. Safdar. 

As of now, health care workers still have to reuse masks and N-95 respirators.

“Pretty much every health system around the country is doing some version of N-95 reuse,  whether it’s, you know, decontaminating it or whether it’s allowing people to wear it for a certain number of days and then discarding it,” said Dr. Safdar.

“The whole scary part about this is that we haven’t even started flu season,” added Dr. Kresch.

Dr. Kresch says she wishes people would just avoid gatherings, enforce social distancing and not do anything unnecessary.

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