Hospital Turning Away Stroke Patients, Sending Them 200 Miles Away As COVID Filling Beds

A Green Bay, Wisconsin, hospital reportedly had to turn away 28 patients in one day, including three suffering from strokes, and transfer them to a hospital over 200 miles away because of the amount of COVID cases in the hospital, according to the Associated Press.

Dr. Ashok Rai, president and CEO of Prevea Health and treating patients in northeast and western Wisconsin, said COVID patients occupy about 20 percent of the beds in his hospitals, and almost every patient is unvaccinated, both of which lead to turning other patients away.

"They are the ones not only using the highest amount of resources but staying the longest," Rai said. "Unfortunately our health care systems are overwhelmed right now."

Wisconsin health officials said Thursday the increase in cases and hospitalizations of mostly delta variant COVID cases would have been cause for concern even before the appearance of the newly-detected omicron variant in the U.S.

Officials asked for residents to get vaccinated and continue taking steps to stay safe and healthy, as the medical community works to study the new variant, the severity of illness it causes and how well the current vaccines are capable of protecting against it.

"We need your help," Rai said. "We need to make sure hospitals are there to take care of everybody."

Department of Health Services Secretary Karen Timberlake said 97 percent of intensive care beds and 98 percent of intermediate care beds are currently filled across the state, illustrating the immense pressure the state's healthcare system is currently under.

"We have tools in our toolbox that can help slow the spread," she said. "We need to buckle down and commit to taking these steps."

For more reporting from The Associated Press, see below.

COVID, Wisconsin, Delta, Omicron
The increased number of non-Omicron COVID hospitalizations in Wisconsin caused a Green Bay area hospital to turn away 28 patients in one day. Above, a visual aid is seen onscreen during White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki's daily news briefing at the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House in Washington, DC. Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

People who are not vaccinated are nearly 11 times more likely to be hospitalized and 15 times more likely to die than those who have been inoculated, the latest data from the Wisconsin Department of Health Services shows. To date, 9,052 deaths due to COVID-19 have been reported in Wisconsin.

There are no confirmed reports of the omicron variant in Wisconsin yet, but that level of testing usually takes a week or more so it is possible it is more widespread than known, said Dr. Ryan Westergaard, the state's chief medical officer.

For now, nearly every confirmed case is the delta variant, he said.

The U.S. recorded its first known omicron infection on Wednesday, in a fully vaccinated person who had returned to California from South Africa, where the variant was first identified just over a week ago.

A second U.S. case was confirmed Thursday in Minnesota, involving a vaccinated man who had attended an anime convention just before Thanksgiving in New York City that drew an estimated 50,000 people. That would suggest the variant has begun to spread within the U.S.

A Wisconsin hospital has seen a recent spike in non-Omicron COVID cases, sending three stroke patients 200 miles away for care due to lack of beds. Above, a stock photo shows a hospital walkway with a member of staff in it. sudok1/Getty