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Surge in COVID-19 cases impacting access to health care in Juneau County

Surge in COVID-19 cases impacting access to health care in Juneau County

Mile Bluff front

Mile Bluff is warning residents that the increase in COVID-19 cases may impact access to healthcare.

Officials at Mile Bluff Medical Center in Mauston are warning Juneau County residents that increased COVID-19 activity may limit access to healthcare as cases surge over the past month.

“The hospital is filled with more patients, many of whom are extremely sick with COVID-19,” said Mile Bluff Medical Center Director of Public Relations Kathy Behnke. “Sicker patients require more nursing attention, causing longer wait times for other hospitalized patients who need assistance.”

The warning comes as Juneau County has moved to the “critically high” classification for COVID-19 cases. Between Nov. 3-16 the county saw an average of 29 cases per day, a large increase over the previous two week average of eight cases per day. Juneau County reported 79 cases for the four-day period from Thanksgiving through Nov. 29, and currently has 458 active cases.

“This spike in illness is having a negative impact on patient access to already-busy healthcare systems,” Behnke said.

According to officials, the hospital is seeing longer hospitalizations leading to limited bed space, which in turn causes patients to spend more time in the Emergency Department as they wait for a bed. With more patients in emergency care the department can then get overcrowded, leading to longer wait times for emergency and urgent care patients.

Behnke said the challenges facing Mile Bluff are similar to those other healthcare providers are dealing with throughout the region, with departments overflowing and some hospitals forced to divert patients to other facilities. Mile Bluff says they have sometimes had to divert patients to hospitals up to two hours away.

“Hospitals across the state are at or exceeding capacity; which hasn’t happened since last winter’s surge,” Behnke said. “The use of ventilators and the need for intensive care units in our area is higher than ever.”

Mile Bluff is providing the following guidelines:

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.

Reach Christopher Jardine on Twitter @ChrisJJardine or contact him at 608-432-6591.

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