MLHS COVID-19 Update 4/15

April 15, 2020

So far, we have been relying on data, science, and experts to flatten the curve,” Dr. Tom Bracken, Infection Prevention Medical Director for Mille Lacs Health System, said. “They continue to review what they have been doing, and they have adapted when they needed to change. That’s what we are doing, too, and that’s the best any of us can do.”

For the last five weeks, MLHS has been working on preparedness plans for COVID-19, with the Incident Command (emergency response) Team meeting daily. Members of the team also are part of daily and weekly communications with the Minnesota Dept. of Health, CDC, Minnesota Hospital Association, and other state and regional partners.

Bill Nelson, CEO, said that ensuring Long Term Care (nursing home) residents’ health safety is one of the continuing major focuses, with a “No visitors, no exceptions” policy and masking for all employees being mandatory.

Mille Lacs County as of 4/10 has not had any positive test cases of COVID-19. MLHS has tested 35 people, 31 of those are negative and the rest still pending.

MLHS has applied for, and gotten, grants and loans that will help with the operations of the facility. CFO John Unzen said that the health system is in a good position because it is “diversified in what it offers to patients, as opposed to if we just did one thing, our status could be in a whole different place right now.” Unzen stressed that there is still much uncertainty about how the pandemic will affect all facilities and that the duration of this situation could alter long-term projections, but presently, MLHS is stable. “We realize that the longer this situation continues, the more changes we may need to make in our operations,” he said. “But people should know that we are still caring for patients. It may look different in some cases, but care is still here when people want it. That commitment is not changing.”

If patients want to be seen in person or speak with a provider, that is available. But TeleHealth services are also available and going strong. You can use a smart phone or computer to connect with your provider (directions are on our website.) To do this, just call the regular number 320-532-3154 to make an appointment, and the admissions partner will ask you some questions and get you scheduled, just as you would with a normal office visit. The health system will be calling you for that virtual visit, you don’t have to do anything but make sure your phone is set up properly and wait for the scheduled call.

The patient portal on the MLHS website is not a place, however, to be doing routine communications for care. You can use the portal section if you’ve seen your doctor (or had a virtual visit) and need clarification on something or to communicate about that visit. For new issues, please call and schedule a TeleHealth visit.

All employees of MLHS, whether they care directly for patients or not, are now required to wear masks. “This is not only to protect us,” said MLHS COO Kim Kucera, “it’s also for source-masking. We know that people can have COVID-19 yet not know it, so it’s to protect others from ourselves, too.” Kucera added that MLHS is very thankful for the community members who have made and donated masks to the health system. “We are using surgical face masks for employees who have face-to-face contact with sick patients. For all other departments, we are really using those donated DIY masks. We have a system in place for usage and washing and this piece is integral to our functioning right now.” (To learn about what the mask requirements are, and how to donate, call Diane at 320-532-2604).