Wisconsin running short on ICU beds

NOW: Wisconsin running short on ICU beds

MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- Wisconsin currently has just 98 state ICU beds, 7% of capacity available, according to the Wisconsin Health Association (WHA). UW Health said when ICU capacity reaches that point, those who need care quickly might have to wait a little longer.

"Our emergency physicians who are seeing critically ill patients in the emergency department, realize they have to be admitted to an ICU, but then can't readily find that ICU," UW Health Chief Quality Officer Jeff Pothof said. "It can take time, lots of phone calls."

More than 330 Wisconsin COVID patients are in ICU. UW Health said the state has avoided disaster, but it could be coming.

"You could start hearing stories like we have in other states where they're flying them hundreds of miles away to try to find an ICU bed," Pothof said.

The situation could get worse during flu season.

"Flu season is always a busy time of the year," Wisconsin Medical Society Emergency Physician Brad Burmeister said. "If we have flu on top of what we're currently operating at, I think it's going to be a pretty darn challenging for us."

Ascension Wisconsin said, as more COVID-19 patients end up in the E.R., it's possible those wait times can increase for everyone. But there is a solution.

"We are unlikely to mask and social distance ourselves out of this," Ascension Wisconsin Chief Clinical Officer Dr. Greg Brusko said. "The vaccine is absolutely categorically the answer to improving the situation."

Ascension and UW Health said in addition to vaccinating for COVID-19, getting a flu shot this year could help with the ICU situation.

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