This guest column has been submitted by leaders at Essentia Health: Dr. Andrew Moen, Physician Division Chairman; Dr. Julie Pazdernik, Physician Section Chairwoman; and Ryan Hill, Vice President of Operations-Interim.
Amid a global pandemic, our news, social media, daily conversations, and even trips to the grocery store are dominated by COVID-19. By staying home and keeping our distance from others, Minnesota has worked hard to flatten the curve and give our hospitals time to prepare for a surge of COVID-19 positive patients.
That is exactly what Essentia Health St. Mary’s-Detroit Lakes has been doing. We’ve worked diligently since mid-March to ensure that we have adequate space, beds, equipment, staff and treatments for COVID-19 patients. We have worked closely with other hospitals in the Essentia Health system to ensure the highest level of care for patients regardless of where they are seen. We have spent time developing policies and procedures to ensure that our patients and staff are safe within our walls. We are confident that we are prepared for a surge of patients at any time.
Your safety is our highest priority. Your health matters. Don’t delay seeking health care over concerns of safety amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Don’t let fear be a barrier to your care.
As local businesses are reopening, we too are welcoming more patients back into our facilities.
When you come to one of our facilities you’ll notice some changes. Upon entering, all staff, patients and visitors answer screening questions and have their temperatures taken. Everyone at Essentia is wearing a mask; you can help us conserve our supply of personal protective equipment (PPE) by bringing your own mask and wearing it when you arrive. If you cannot provide your own face mask, one will be given to you to abide by our universal masking policy. Covering mouths and noses is an effective way to contain a virus that is spread by droplets.
Everyone in our facilities is being directed to practice prudent social distancing, most notably at the registration desk. Plus, chairs in our waiting areas are spaced further apart than normal to allow for social distancing.
Visitor restrictions continue. This is a difficult decision but one that reduces the likelihood of COVID-19 transmission. We are following best practices of our organization as well as other health care facilities.
We understand the importance of visitors in the clinic and hospital. We are continually reviewing our policies and practices to ensure the safety and well-being of our patients and staff.
Our Detroit Lakes pharmacy offers curbside pick-up and delivery options. We’ve introduced a curbside appointment for vitals and fetal heart rate monitoring for our pregnant patients.
We also developed a unique registration process for our most high-risk patients such as those coming into our Infusion Center.
We have rerouted traffic within our hospitals to isolate COVID-19 patients. Rooms have been converted to create negative air flow, which reduces the risk of exposure.
We are rigorously cleaning and sanitizing all our rooms – including rooms that house COVID-19 patients as well as those that do not. This includes intense processes, such as UV light technology, aimed at killing viruses and bacteria. These enhanced cleaning standards demand significantly more time and resources, but they promote peace of mind that our patients will be seen and treated in the safest environment possible.
As we resume elective and time-sensitive surgeries, we methodically evaluate those patients receiving operations. Seventy-two hours beforehand, a COVID-19 test is administered, and we ask the patient to self-quarantine until their procedure. We also have the ability to perform a rapid test on the day of a procedure. In both instances, the results will be one factor used to determine whether it’s OK to move forward.
These changes do not mean our attention will be diverted away from the coronavirus crisis. We will proceed carefully and in a phased approach. The surgeries we perform will be ones that have a minimal impact on our hospital bed capacity and PPE usage.
Essentia is strongly positioned to deliver safe, timely care thanks to our diligent conservation of PPE and our increased capacity to test for COVID-19. We’ve been preparing for this, and we’ll continue to prepare, because nothing is more important to us than the well being of our patients, staff and communities.