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Field hospital at State Fair Park opens for COVID-19 patients

The 530-bed alternate-care center at State Fair Park in West Allis is intended to help free up beds at hospitals inundated with coronavirus patients. The field hospital is to help hospitals in the Fox Valley and northern Wisconsin cope with a surge of COVID-19 patients that is leaving some centers there with just a few open beds. The state-run center — one of a few of its kind nationwide — will serve patients who need help but aren't in need of hospital-level care in order to leave open beds in hospitals for more serious patients. (Photo provided by the Department of Administration)

The 530-bed alternate-care center at State Fair Park in West Allis is intended to help free up beds at hospitals inundated with coronavirus patients. The field hospital is to help hospitals in the Fox Valley and northern Wisconsin cope with a surge of COVID-19 patients that is leaving some centers there with just a few open beds. The state-run center — one of a few of its kind nationwide — will serve patients who need help but aren’t in need of hospital-level care in order to leave open beds in hospitals for more serious patients. (Photo provided by the Department of Administration)

Wisconsin opened its alternative-care center at State Fair Park for COVID-19 patients on Wednesday, the day the state announced more than 1,000 patients were currently hospitalized with the virus, the highest number yet.

Staff employees at the hospital spent the day fielding calls from hospitals to provide for the transfer of patients there, said Deb Standridge, chief executive of the center.

The number of hospitalized coronavirus patients in the state has tripled in the last month.

Several hospitals throughout the state are at or near capacity and are experiencing severe staffing shortages as health-care workers are exposed to the virus and are forced to quarantine themselves at home.
Here’s what we know about the field hospital.

Who will be treated at the State Fair Park hospital?

COVID-19 patients who are less sick but still require hospital care will be treated at the field hospital.

Patients must be between 18 and 70 years old and have been in hospital for at least 48 hours before they can be taken to the medical station.

The patients also must have vital signs that are close to normal, fevers below 100 degrees and must be able to walk on their own or with the assistance of one other person.

The patients treated at the center may need oxygen therapy, additional rest or medication, Standridge said. The patients typically will stay about three to six days.

Should people who suspect they have COVID-19 go to the field hospital?

No, walk-up patients will not be admitted. Those who will be treated at the hospital have been transported from other hospitals.

People should still contact their doctor or go to their regular hospital if they need medical attention.

Who is working at the State Fair Park hospital?

The medical station employs health-care workers from across the state and the country.

The staff includes physicians, nurses, pharmacists and social workers.

How many patients can be treated at the field hospital?

The medical station initially will have 50 beds, Standridge said. But the number of beds can be doubled quickly, she said.

The state has said the field hospital could hold as many as 530 beds.

Will patients have to pay for being treated at the field hospital?

The cost of transferring patients to the field hospital will be paid for by the state with federal money allocated through the CARES Act.

The state will not bill health plans or patients for the care provided at the field hospital.

Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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