Hospitals face challenges sending COVID-19 patients to Alternate Care Facility

Posted at 7:04 PM, Nov 16, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-16 20:04:12-05

MILWAUKEE — The Alternate Care Facility in West Allis can accommodate more than 500 COVID-19 patients, yet as of Monday, there are only 19 patients receiving care at the site.

Leaders of local healthcare systems say they have encountered challenges sending COVID-19 patients to the ACF since it opened in October.

"Our medical centers have the highest level of in-patients since the beginning of the pandemic sitting at just over 1,100 patients," said Chief Aurora Medical Group Officer Dr. Jeff Bahr.

489 of those patients are at Aurora hospitals in Wisconsin.

The ACF is meant to help hospitals handle the workload. So far, Aurora says they have sent just 7 patients to the ACF.

"I think the challenge is always matching specific details about each individual case or patient with the capabilities of the alternate care facility, making sure we’re meeting the criteria of the facility, and the patient consents to going there," said Dr. Bahr.

Froedtert and the Medical College of Wisconsin said they have transferred 5 patients to the ACF, while UW Health sent 2.

UW Health's Chief Quality Officer Dr. Jeff Pothof says with the concept of the ACF being new educating patients has been challenging.

"A lot of people hear field hospital and the first thing my mind goes to is like the tv show MASH, and I think about tents and people running around like crazy. It’s absolutely not like that," said Dr. Pothof.

Dr. Pothof added patients who may be a good fit for the facility are those who are improving but still need care they can't get at home. He stressed that there are doctors, respiratory therapists, and nurses there to provide the same kind of care they would get at a hospital for the state they are in.

Ultimately, those patients who agree to go to the ACF are helping more than they may realize.

"If you’re in a hospital and you are winning your battle against COVID-19 it’s really important that you’re amenable, you’re agreeable, you’re willing to go to the Alternate Care Facility so that someone else is afforded the same opportunity you had to beat COVID-19," said Dr. Pothof.

Dr. Pothof noted there have been improvements made to allow ACF to accept a broader range of patients.

TMJ4 News reached out to the Department of Administration, which operates the ACF, but was told nobody was available for an interview.

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