This is about making sure we are stabilizing our hospitals in Wisconsin. Making sure that the short-term impact of COVID-19, and the preparations that are taking place don’t damage them in the medium or long-term.
WHN: State and federal officials are working on a field hospital at the State Fair Grounds in West Allis to prepare for a surge of COVID-19 patients. What role are area health systems playing in this project?
EB: They’re providing a lot of the administrative support. The administrative structures and leadership are coming together from existing or recently retired hospital and health system leaders. They’re also very closely coordinating with the state and local governments, so the (State Emergency Operations Center) and the local EOC in Milwaukee, and other emergency government and planning agencies, to get a good sense of what’s needed, get a good sense of the supplies that are necessary, and get a good sense of the staffing that is going to be necessary. And then once they have that in place, and I think that’s moving along quite nicely, then going to (Federal Emergency Management Agency) and the federal government for resources there, first and foremost. And then also trying to make contingency plans for what can be provided from within those health systems themselves to help stand up the alternate care facility.
WHN: On Friday, Department of Health Services Secretary-designee Andrea Palm said the state is working with hospitals to provide more real-time data on ICU bed occupancy and the number of available ventilators. When will this information be available to the public?
EB: No one wants more data available than the hospitals in Wisconsin. We need data in order to get an accurate picture of what’s going on in the state, do planning, those kinds of things. So do other decision-makers like lawmakers, policymakers, the governor. We need robust sets of data that help us not only plan, but gauge what the impact is of this pandemic in Wisconsin. And gauge it over a period of time. Looking at data on a daily basis is important, but you also have to have that information over time.
We worked with the State Emergency Operations Center to add data points to that system that has been in existence. It’s not a system that WHA runs. It’s not a system that we administer like the hospital data that we collect at the Wisconsin Hospital Association Information Center. And it’s a system that doesn’t so readily have, for example, COVID-19 hospitalizations in it. Those things have been added. We’ve been a strong advocate for adding that type of data to be collected.
WHN: What additional information will be added?
EB: Some of the things that can be really important that we think are coming next are back to those gauges of the impact of COVID on healthcare systems’ capacity. We know total hospitalizations, which is a rate of positive COVID tests. What we need, and I expect we’ll see very soon, is COVID positive hospitalizations on a daily basis. So, how many COVID patients are occupying inpatient and ICU beds today? How many patients under investigation are there today in the hospital? Because when they have to be monitored and isolated in an inpatient facility, that’s essentially the same as taking up a bed of your COVID-positive patient. And then also ideally being able to look at that, say, regionally. We think that all of these are critical pieces of information that should be not only gathered but also reported. Other states are doing this. Wisconsin should be doing this.