COVID-19 alternate care facility opens at State Fair Park

The alternate care facility for COVID-19 patients opened at Wisconsin State Fair Park on Wednesday, Oct. 14.

No patients are going to be admitted on the facility's opening day, though it is currently staffed with 50 doctors, nurses, pharmacists and other specialists.

Eventually, the facility, which was built in April, will be able to accommodate as many as 530 patients.

"It has been our fervent hope that we would never need to use the alternate care facility. But in a crisis, such as a pandemic, we must prepare for the worst," said Julie Willems Van Dijk, deputy secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS).

DHS officials said they have been in touch with the state's 134 hospitals to determine which providers will be sending patients as soon as Thursday.

Those admitted to the facility will already be on the road to recovery from the coronavirus, nearing discharge. They will have to meet a list of criteria that includes being between ages 18 and 70 with good vitals and a temperature of 100 degrees or lower.

COVID-19 alternate care facility at Wisconsin State Fair Park

COVID-19 alternate care facility at Wisconsin State Fair Park

The goal is to help take the pressure off of hospitals, which are nearing capacity and face staffing shortages as COVID-19 cases surge in Wisconsin.

According to the Wisconsin Hospital Association, 1,017 people were hospitalized with COVID-19 in the state on Wednesday -- a single-day record.

Ultimately, the transfer of patients to the alternate care facility would allow hospitals to make more room for and devote more resources to COVID-19 and non-COVID-19 patients in need of urgent care.

"If we hear from health systems across the state, that we need to increase (beds) rapidly, we can go up to 75, 100 beds in a rapid amount of time," said Dr. Deb Standridge, CEO of the alternate care facility.

COVID-19 alternate care facility at Wisconsin State Fair Park

COVID-19 alternate care facility at Wisconsin State Fair Park

Patients who receive care at the alternate care facility will be there for approximately 3-6 days and will not be charged for their stay.

They will be transported via ambulance to the facility by paramedics who have special training and PPE.

The facility does not accept walk-ins; patients must be referred by a hospital.

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