“People have to look at the bigger picture,” said Dr. Tom Bracken, Infection Prevention Medical Director for MLHS. “If you live in New York City, your life looks very different than if you’re in the middle of Nebraska. But anything could change for any of us, at any time. Stearns county is experiencing a surge in cases and we’re not far from there. Good distancing – and contrary to what you might read, masking – will make a difference.”
MLHS has tested 65 people so far, with six outstanding tests, (with the others negative). Other types of testing are on the horizon but not available at MLHS yet. The antiviral drug Remdesivir has officially been approved for use, but the state will only get 72 courses of it, to distribute where there is the most need (typically in hospitals dealing with seriously ill patients).
The central Minnesota region is moving in concert to the next level (Tier 2 of the Regional Surge Plan) with the Central Minnesota Disaster Management Team. The regional disaster response model calls for St. Cloud Hospital to accept patients for care of severe COVID-19 while smaller hospitals like MLHS take care of less severely ill patients and also patients without COVID-19.
Mille Lacs Health System is exploring the possibility of opening up its surgery department to elective surgeries, by working closely with the Minnesota Hospital Association (MHA). The MHA is helping all Minnesota hospitals create the best plan to prepare and be ready to add elective procedures while maintaining staff and patient safety. This plan will likely not be ready for implementation for two to three weeks.
MLHS was notified of a positive test of COVID-19 from another facility, regarding a patient who had been at the MLHS facility. The protocol for this is that the Infection Preventionist determines exposure risk to staff, the actions staff should take, and then communicates with the Minnesota Department of Health, which will in turn do its own investigation into any public exposure. “We need to remember that any further information that would violate the patient’s privacy is not permitted as per HIPAA law,” said Ann Gross-Resch, MLHS Privacy Officer. “Those privacy regulations allow notification of staff who had contact with a positive patient. Protected health information shared without patient authorization is a violation of those regulations.” Infection Preventionist Vicki Engmark said that exposure was limited to six people. Engmark has concluded her contact tracing, and said that if there was any exposure to other patients at MLHS (in this case, there was not) the MDH would be working on that piece of the communication and tracing. Dr. Tom Bracken said, “Our top-notch staff used appropriate Personal Protection Equipment to protect themselves and others while caring for this particular patient.”