WAUSAU – North Central Health Care nursing homes in Wausau and Merrill will admit Covid-recovered patients from regional healthcare facilities as part of ongoing efforts to alleviate the growing pressures mounting from surging COVID-19 hospitalizations amid industry-wide staffing shortages, NCHC announced this week.

Wisconsin saw its highest level of COVID-19 hospitalizations last week, since January of 2021, according to the Wisconsin Hospital Association.

NCHC is working with Aspirus Health and Marshfield Health systems to admit up to four COVID-recovered patients daily into Mount View Care Center in Wausau or Pine Crest Nursing Home in Merrill. These COVID-recovered patients would be discharged from the hospital and continue to receive skilled nursing care within NCHC’s current operations, however, they would not pose a COVID-19 transmission risk to current nursing home residents as they would be outside their quarantine or isolation periods. Additional care units have not been opened as newly admitted patients would use the open beds at both facilities.

“North Central Health Care operates two of the largest nursing homes in the central Wisconsin region and as a healthcare provider it is our duty to continue to explore options that will assist our local and regional medical partners during this ongoing pandemic,” said Jill Meschke, interim CEO at NCHC, in a news release. “Our NCHC staff have shown their dedication and ability to care for those with complex medical needs and will continue to provide outstanding care for those recovering from COVID-19.

“We will continue ongoing communication with HERC, WEAVR (Wisconsin Emergency Assistance Volunteer Registry) and our healthcare partners to ensure we remain flexible in this quickly evolving situation. Our goal is to help patients recover and get back to their homes, families and communities while relieving the pressure on our healthcare systems so they focus efforts on providing care to those who are in greatest need of hospitalization and medical care.”

NCHC has also been in contact with WEAVR to place a short-term staffing request for Mount View Care Center and Pine Crest Nursing Home in the event that additional staffing would be required to continue operations with the additional resident admissions.

“NCHC is exploring the possibility of opening additional units within its facilities that would admit approximately 15 to 20 additional patients at each skilled nursing home, however, until WEAVR short-term staffing is secured, those additional units will not be opened due to the increased staffing requirements,” said Jarret Nickel, COO at NCHC, in the release. “If this decompression support becomes viable, the WEAVR program would provide short-term staffing that would be available for up to eight weeks.”

NCHC currently provides ventilator-dependent skilled nursing care at Mount View Care Center, however, no additional ventilator-dependent beds or units would be added because of the additional specialized staffing that would be required to operate the units. Mount View Care Center is licensed to provide care for 154 residents and Pine Crest for 120 residents. Between the two facilities, there is currently an opportunity to provide care for an additional 50 patients in the existing operational structure.