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Hospital services ramp up, elective surgeries allowed


May 15, 2020

On May 5, Gov. Tim Walz signed an Executive Order allowing elective surgeries, and Community Memorial Hospital is already back in business.

The order allowed hospitals, ambulatory surgical centers, and medical, dental and veterinary clinics to resume many procedures previously on hold, upon establishing criteria determining which procedures should proceed during the COVID-19 pandemic and providing a plan to maintain a safe environment for facility staff, patients, and visitors.

“Minnesota has made significant progress in building up critical resources to combat COVID-19,” Walz said. “We’re proud that this progress will allow our medical professionals to safely resume certain procedures to keep Minnesotans healthy and improve their quality of life.”

CMH CEO Rick Breuer noted that the Cloquet hospital fully supported the governor’s decision to suspend elective surgeries weeks ago and fully supported his latest decision.

“As forecasts have changed, we now also fully support the decision by the governor to lift the suspension,” Breuer said. “The supply chain for PPE has improved to the point where we believe we can manage a reduced level of surgical activity while still maintaining a healthy PPE supply.”

In keeping with the Minnesota Department of Health recommendations, the hospital has established safety guidelines, which include the testing of all patients for COVID-19 with the test results known prior to surgery. Patients testing positive for COVID-19 will not be allowed to have elective surgical procedures. The number of surgeries scheduled per day will be far fewer than prior to the pandemic, to allow for thorough cleaning and sanitizing between patients. Only one visitor per patient will be allowed and elective cases that require inpatient stays will not be scheduled at this time.

Breuer said the processes and protocols will keep staff and patients safe, as matters other than the pandemic get attention.

“We know that there are many people waiting for procedures that are growing in urgency,” he said. “We exist to help people enjoy better health, and we are eager to restart many of our services.”

“We remain committed to preserving and acquiring protective equipment to protect our frontline employees from COVID-19,” said Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan. “But health conditions haven’t been put on hold during this pandemic. This action will help Minnesotans get care for chronic pain, treat and prevent disease, and address their health concerns.”

The following departments are also open at CMH, with restrictions as noted in a press release from the hospital:

• X-rays and more: The imaging department is now open. All patients are screened when they enter the building and must wear masks during their appointment. Following the procedure, all areas of patient care are cleaned and sanitized before the next appointment. While the department is fully open, procedures are being staggered to allow for social distancing.

• Diabetes education: Staff has started to schedule patient appointments, but only for those who are high-priority. These patients include individuals new to insulin or having difficulty with the use of insulin pen/pump device or regimen. They will also look to include patients with uncontrolled diabetes, especially if they do not have access to a computer or video access for telehealth visits. At this time, other patients will be offered appointments via telehealth. The classroom for diabetes and nutrition education have been configured to allow for social distancing and all mandated precautions will be taken, such as wearing masks and the use of hand sanitizer or handwashing facilities, as well as goggles for providers. Prior to an appointment, all patients will undergo health status screening when they enter the building.

• Cardiac rehabilitation: the Cardiac Rehab department is reopening and will adhere to recommended guidelines for personal protection for patients and staff. Class sizes will be greatly reduced from what is normally allowed and the exercise equipment will spaced appropriately to ensure social distancing. All surfaces will be cleaned between patient appointments. Every patient will be screened upon entrance to the facility.

• Therapy: Occupational therapy, speech therapy and physical therapy have all provided limited appointments during the past several weeks, but will slowly begin increasing their patient numbers, while following all recommendations and guidelines related to COVID-19. All patients entering the building will be screened.

The CMH cafeteria will reopen, but only for employees, and all menu items will be prepackaged in sealable containers. Reusable cups will not be allowed, and the dispenser for water and ice will no longer be available. Cash will not be accepted for any cafeteria sales. The cafeteria will also be marked off for social distancing, with only one person allowed per table.


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