A look inside a COVID unit at University Hospital

Published: Dec. 2, 2020 at 4:58 PM CST
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MADISON, Wis. (WBAY) - Nearly ten months into the pandemic, hospitals continue to treat large numbers of coronavirus patients. And Action 2 News has been told the next week will be critical as we see the potential fallout from people who gathered for Thanksgiving.

Everyday is a busy day in the many COVID units at University Hospital in Madison.

There’s still a lot of coronavirus in the community. There’s a lot of people who require hospitalization and we’re still struggling,” says Dr. Jeff Pothof, Chief Quality Officer.

Like other medical facilities, University Hospital has designated areas for COVID patients.

According to RN Sam Jutila, “Our unit has been in a perpetual state of full. As soon as a patient can discharge we already have a patient waiting to come into the room and the other units in the hospital are the same way. We’re having more and more of our beds converted to COVID beds because of the increase in demand.”

These areas are closed off to visitors with extreme safety precautions in place to protect hospital staff as well as patients.

“The fact that we have good PPE, the PAPRs are excellent makes me feel very comfortable caring for my patients, but it’s just an extra layer when you do it throughout the day is very time consuming so it’s just eats into your time which, when you have a limited time and lots to do with our patients makes it a bit more of a rush,” adds Jutila.

Treating a COVID patient is much different than treating anyone else in the hospital. And while things have been learned about the disease in the past few months, there are still so many unknowns about the virus.

Dr. Scott Wilson is one of the hospitalists. He says, “The thing that is really tricky with that is that people go down really fast, people get very bad very fast as opposed to other diseases that we’ve taken care of over the years.”

Day in and day out, doctors, nurses, respiratory therapists and other providers are working with these patients -- trying to help them heal.

“Just having a lot of sick, sick patients and a lot of the things that we used to do to get them better just aren’t getting a lot of these patients better. A lot of our ventilator tricks just aren’t working like they used to. And little tips that we used to have just aren’t working like we used to be able to do with them,” adds respiratory therapist, Elizabeth Denny.

At times it’s frustrating for the health care workers who wish more people would take the virus and its severity more seriously, Sam Jutila adds, “I am tired of this. There’s some days I’m fed up about wearing a mask when I got out in public, I’m fed up with not having social gatherings, but it’s what we have to do right now. We literally do it for our health.”

And they wish more people would do the same to keep them out of the hospital.

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