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Madison hospitals add COVID-19 capacity to ERs

Madison hospitals add COVID-19 capacity to ERs

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Madison hospitals are creating separate units in their emergency rooms for COVID-19 patients and adding negative air pressure rooms to protect people in other areas.

UW Hospital converted 10 ER rooms to negative air pressure, for a total of 15 such rooms, to prevent air from being recirculated into other parts of the hospital, spokeswoman Emily Kumlien said Tuesday. The separate respiratory care unit in the ER for confirmed or suspected COVID-19 patients opened Friday, she said.

SSM Health St. Mary’s Hospital in Madison turned an ER wing into a negative pressure wing, increasing the number of negative pressure rooms from four to 12, spokeswoman Kim Sveum said. "Any potential COVID-19 patient would be treated in that wing, separate from those coming to the (ER) for other emergencies," she said.

St. Mary’s also converted two of floors, with a total of 60 plus rooms, to negative pressure for COVID-19 patients and those suspected of being infected. A separate intensive care unit has 12 negative pressure rooms.

UnityPoint Health-Meriter has added more negative pressure rooms, spokeswoman Leah Huibregtse said. "Patients with active COVID symptoms are kept separate from other patients seeking emergency care," she said.

The hospitals are seeing more COVID-19 patients but still have capacity to treat them, the spokeswomen said. Health officials have pointed to models showing hospitals in Madison and elsewhere could be overwhelmed with COVID-19 patients unless strict social distancing requirements started in recent weeks are maintained.

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