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Mayo’s Fitzgerald discusses La Crosse County dilemma with COVID-19 hospitalizations

Rick Solem



It’s probably the best, simplest way to describe COVID-19.

“This spreads so quickly and so efficiently.”


That was Dr. Kevin Fitzgerald on La Crosse Talk PM Monday. He practices family medicine at Mayo Clinic Health System in La Crosse County, and is often part of the Coulee COVID-19 Collaborative health briefings.

Two of the main topics discussed were hospital capacity and how long a COVID-19 patient is hospitalized. For those who do end up in the hospital, it’s not just a quick in and out.

“The moderately ill patients, usually 3-5 days and really, the severely ill patients are much longer,” Fitzgerald said. “If someone ends up on a ventilator, they could end up in the hospital a very very long time — weeks to even a month.

“Our more ill patients, when they get into the hospital, they have to get ivee therapies — some of the steroid medications like Decadron and antibody therapies. And those have to be done over a period of days.”

Fitzgerald added that they are starting to do these ivee therapies in an “outpatient settings” to save space and staff in the hospital, as long as the patient can handle being at home.

The Coulee COVID-19 Collaborative between Mayo, Gundersen Health System and the La Crosse County Health Department will be holding a public briefing at 3:15 p.m. Wednesday, and can be seen by clicking here.

As COVID-19 hospitalizations increase in La Crosse, the county’s two healthcare giants — Mayo and Gundersen — are having to make sacrifices.

“It’s a lot,” Fitzgerald said. “So, we have converted entire floors over to taking care of COVID patients — things that would otherwise have taken overnight stays.

“Our surgical floor is now a COVID floor. And we’ve kind of displaced those things to other places.”

Fitzgerald added hospital space is one thing that’s diminishing, but there’s another side to the dilemma — staffing.

“So if those staff are pulled to do COVID issues, you have to take that resource from something,” he said. “So, right now, the debate is, ‘Do you pull back on some of the other elective surgeries and other cases, at least temporarily, to make sure you have enough staff to take care of the sick people?’”

It’s all a domino effect that La Crosse County, the state, the country are in the midst of

More COVID-19 patients in the community, leads to more in the hospital, and that creates a need for more healthcare workers to take care of everyone — healthcare workers that are doubly exposed to the virus both in the hospital and in the community. That, then takes them out of commission either with the virus or having to quarantine from a close contact.

Host of WIZM's La Crosse Talk PM | University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point graduate | Hometown: Greenville, Wis | Avid noonball basketball player and sand volleyballer in La Crosse

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