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Hospital beds in short supply locally too

Covid not the only culprit

The availability of hospital beds is also an issue locally, particularly for transfers to larger hospitals, said Community Memorial Hospital CEO Rick Breuer. “It’s hard to find open beds in Duluth for anything,” he said.

Beds at CMH have been full too, but not necessarily with Covid patients, he said.

“People are assuming it’s all covid and that was the case last winter,” Breuer said. “Now we’re seeing a lot of people needing healthcare, maybe because they delayed it because of the pandemic or because flu season is starting, the whole rash of usual stuff.”

The ongoing pandemic is causing other problems as well.

“What has made it more difficult is the wear and tear and mental trauma it’s brought on so many in the workforce,” he said. “It’s not bad in Cloquet, but a lot of healthcare providers have lost a lot of staff to early retirements, people switching jobs.”

CMH has been affected too, he said. They had some early retirements. With about 500 positions, Breuer said they normally have about 3 percent of its positions open. “Now we’re running about 5 percent,” he said. “But we’ve had pretty good luck. I think we create a good environment for employees, we still have low turnover and people tend to come and stay.”

The pandemic grind continues though. Testing is up. They steer most people to Raiter Clinic for that. Breuer said he thinks part of the increase is the requirement by the schools and some businesses that people who were exposed to the virus have a negative test before they return to work or classes. For others, it may be required for travel or going to a concert.

And cases are up because the highly transmissible delta variant is now the dominant strain.

Over the week from Wednesday to Wednesday, case numbers in Carlton County increased by 132, to a cumulative total of 4,191 cases on Wednesday, Oct. 6. Deaths from Covid went up by two between Monday and Wednesday: one was a person between 55-59 years old; another a person aged 80-84.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports the positivity rate for the county each day: it was at 6.44 percent Wednesday, up from 5.96 percent last week and 4.4 percent the week before. The CDC reported three hospital admissions in Carlton County on Wednesday.

Breuer is optimistic, although he says the strain on the healthcare system is showing.

“I’d like to think we’re on the cusp of a better place,” he said. “But not yet. We can’t let our guard down.”

CMH is hosting booster clinics from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Friday, Oct. 15 and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 27. The clinics will be held on the ground floor, and only Pfizer BioNTech will be available. Call 218-879-1271 and press 2 to make an appointment.

Booster shots as well as vaccines are also available at other area medical clinics, hospitals and pharmacies.