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COVID surge continues to impact access to healthcare

Critically high – these are the words used to classify COVID-19 disease activity in Juneau County between November 3 and 16 ( This is a dramatic increase over the previous two-week reporting period, jumping from an average of eight new positive cases a day, to 29. In recent days, and on more than one occasion, 50 or more cases have been reported within a 24-hour period. This spike in illness is having a negative impact on patient access to already-busy healthcare systems.

At Mile Bluff Medical Center in Mauston, the hospital is filled with more patients, many of whom are extremely sick with COVID-19. Sicker patients require more nursing attention, causing longer wait times for other hospitalized patients who need assistance. Sicker patients generally also require longer hospitalizations. This means that bed space becomes more limited, leading patients to spend more time in the Emergency Department as they wait for a hospital bed to become available. When this happens, the emergency department can become overcrowded, and emergency and urgent care patients begin to experience exceptionally long wait times before they are seen.

Mile Bluff is not alone in these challenges. Emergency departments throughout the region are overflowing; and some are being forced to divert patients to other facilities. Hospitals across the state are at or exceeding capacity; which hasn’t happened since last winter’s surge. The use of ventilators and the need for intensive care units (ICU) in our area is higher than ever.

In addition, it can be challenging for facilities to get needed supplies, or to find short-term rehabilitation, long-term care, home health services or hospice care for patients; and transfers to facilities with higher levels of care are almost impossible to come by. In fact, for Mile Bluff patients, the closest ICU with an available bed is often more than two hours away.

With the continued strain on these vital resources, it is becoming more difficult to receive care close to home for both COVID and non-COVID-related illnesses. To help slow the spread of illness, you are encouraged to continue to be vigilant with COVID-19 safety measures, and to seek care wisely. And when you do seek care, please have patience and understanding with the individuals committed to caring for you.

Slow the spread

There are simple steps you can take to slow the spread of illness in the community.

  • Get vaccinated. It is the most effective way to slow the spread of COVID-19. Vaccines are available to those five and older. Request yours at
  • Wear a cloth face covering when in public, regardless of vaccination status.
  • Keep six feet of space between you and those you don’t share a household with.
  • Maintain small social circles.
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Wash your hands with soap and water frequently and thoroughly.

Seek care wisely

If you are experiencing a life-threatening situation, call 9-1-1 or head to your local emergency department immediately. At Mile Bluff, emergency services are available 24 hours a day, and patients are seen in order of the severity of their condition.

If you experience a sudden illness or injury that is not life-threatening, same-day appointments are often available at Mile Bluff’s five area clinics throughout the week. To make a clinic appointment, call 608-847-5000. If your situation can’t wait until a primary care provider is available in the clinic, urgent care is offered evenings and weekends.

For your convenience, Mile Bluff offers a service called Clockwise that allows you to get on the urgent care waiting list without having to check in at the facility. Through this online platform, you can reserve your spot in line, skip the long wait at the hospital, and instead wait in the comfort of your home.

You are welcome to check in and wait on-site. If you do, please note that urgent care patients who reserved their spot from home may come in after you, yet be treated before you because they were on the waiting list ahead of your arrival. In addition, the emergency and urgent care departments at Mile Bluff share a waiting room and providers. Because of this, you may also see emergency patients who arrive after you that need to be treated before you.

To reserve your spot in line for urgent care, go to Please note that the initial times requested are not appointment guarantees. There are times you may have to wait past your anticipated reservation time due to the patients who are being seen for life-threatening emergencies.

Please be patient

Healthcare providers want to deliver great care to everyone who enters their doors; and they feel as troubled as you do when services are delayed. Please be patient as medical teams work through the challenges that arise as a result of the critically-high disease activity that is currently taking place in our region.