After 207 patients and $15 million, Wisconsin closes coronavirus overflow hospital


Wisconsin’s long-empty coronavirus overflow hospital at the state fairgrounds is closed.

Gov. Tony Evers’ administration says the Alternate Care Facility at the fairgrounds in West Allis is being “decommissioned.”

“The Alternate Care Facility was constructed as hospitalizations from COVID-19 were increasing across our state to ensure that our health systems and local governments could continue to provide high-quality care to Wisconsinites,” Department of Administration Secretary Joel Brennan said in a statement. “It not only brought relief to our hospitals but also provided quality and compassionate healthcare to Wisconsinites in their time of need.”

What the hospital did not do was treat many patients.

Brennan’s office says just 207 people were treated at the facility.

“A total of 170 individuals received treatment at the facility between October 2020 and January 1, 2021,” DOA stated. “On December 22, 2020, the ACF opened a Bamlanivimab (BAM) Infusion Clinic to meet the needs of local southeastern Wisconsin health systems that did not have the capacity at the time to serve their patients with the new outpatient treatment. A total of 37 individuals were treated at the BAM Infusion Clinic.”

It cost $15 million to build the hospital last summer, and cost millions more to operate.

Critics have said the hospital was never needed.

“Our health care system was never close to being overwhelmed from COVID patients yet the governor built the State Fair Park field hospital that has largely sat empty,” Brett Healy, president of the free market MacIver Institute, told The Center Square on Monday. “If the governor had made a rational decision on the most effective use of the $15 million, just think of all the things he could have done with that federal money to protect the elderly or help the nursing homes keep our loved ones alive.”

The DOA did not respond to questions about just how much it cost to operate the overflow hospital for the four months when patients were treated.

The Department of Health Services said on its website that Wisconsin’s coronavirus relief money will foot the tab.

“Funding for the alternate care facility will come from the $445 million surge reserve fund set aside by Gov. Evers to ensure the ability of Wisconsin hospital systems and communities to handle a surge of COVID-19 cases,” DHS stated.

Healy said the overflow hospital’s legacy will always be one of fear and short-sighted decisions.

“The Evers Administration’s handling of the $15 million field hospital at State Fair Park is emblematic of the repeated mistakes and missteps it has committed in the fight to contain COVID-19,” Healy said. “Almost since day 1, the Evers Administration has been using suspect data and bad math to convince the Wisconsin public that a complete shutdown of our economy and forced isolation was necessary to keep the health care system from being overwhelmed.”

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