MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) – Southern Wisconsin intensive care units are nearing full capacity and according to health experts, staffing shortages are a factor.
The latest Wisconsin Health Association data shows that South Central Wisconsin ICUs are at 89% capacity.
WHA Workforce Senior Vice President Ann Zenk said high capacity rate cause longer wait times, ambulance transfers and overworked staff.
Though capacity is not as high as it was during the height of the pandemic, Zenk said COVID-19 prompted a workforce shortage in all types of health care facilities, most notably in long-term care facilities.
She said retirement home staff shortages make it harder for nursing homes to take on older individuals currently receiving care at hospitals.
”Right now we’re experiencing kind of a traffic jam in post acute care, you know, the availability of nursing home beds, that is backing traffic up or patient flow up all the way to the emergency department,” Zenk said. ”We need more nursing home beds in Wisconsin, that means we need that staff.”
LeadingAge Wisconsin Financial and Regulatory Services Vice President Rene Eastman said long-term care administrators are doing their best to hire more workers and open up bed space for individuals waiting in hospitals.
”At the heart of it though, it’s really a demographics problem and we expect it to continue to be a challenge for some time,” she said. ”Caregivers are stressed, they’re burnt out. They’re struggling with constant new regulations and shifting regulations due to the pandemic.”
Eastman and Zenk both said the healthcare workforce is not growing fast enough to keep up with the increased need for long term care, which then impacts emergency room care.
Zenk predicted high ICU capacity rates could continue, but also said the numbers often fluctuate and have not reached a high enough level to cause panic.
Last January, multiple hospitals in South Central Wisconsin reported 95-100% capacity.
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