Guest column: Perham Health CEO says hospital is ready
This guest column is by Chuck Hofius, Perham Health CEO.
These are new and challenging times for all of us. I want to assure you Perham Health has been diligently planning for when the COVID-19 pandemic will be in our neighborhoods. This is what we do.
We plan for emergencies. We take care of those who put their trust in us. We will continue to take care of you.
For the past many weeks, we have been coordinating with our regional emergency services partners and hospitals, as well as in nearly daily contact with the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH), the Minnesota Hospital Association (MHA) and Sanford Health. We’ve been involved with conversations with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and on calls with the Minnesota governor and the White House.
All Minnesota hospitals and MDH are working closely to prepare for the surge in patients with COVID-19 that is expected to happen in the next couple of weeks. Perham Health is a 25-bed critical access hospital; however, we typically staff for a maximum of 18 patients. We’ve been tasked by the state to not only get to our full capacity of 25 beds, but to figure out how we can go beyond that number.
Converting other spaces – such as infusion therapy, same day surgery and the sleep study center – gives Perham Health capacity for 33 beds.
In addition, we are carefully coordinating with hospitals across the region and state about how we will care for patients together. The state is divided into eight regions when emergent situations arise – such as we are now in. Each of these regions is in the process of setting up three Alternative Care Hospitals to add to the state’s capacity. These sites should be selected soon. Recently vacated hospitals in communities that have built new and nursing homes that have recently closed are examples of buildings that may be used.
We are coordinating with Sanford, the other hospitals in our region, and these new specialty hospitals to decide which patients will be kept locally, and which will go elsewhere. Clearly, the most acutely ill in our service area will go to Fargo. Perham Health will be taking care of COVID-19 patients needing moderate levels of hospital care, our own medical patients, as well as stable medical patients from other hospitals, so those hospitals can free up much needed ICU capacity.
Rest assured, we have created separate entrances, separate care spaces, separate ventilation systems, and are taking every precaution needed to be able to care for COVID-19 patients in one area of our building while safely caring for the rest of our medical population in another. You can help us greatly by calling your provider before you come in if you believe you have symptoms of COVID-19.
What can you do? Social distancing is helping. It’s the only tool we have to slow the spread of the disease to a level that won’t overrun our health care systems such as you are seeing in some parts of our country. Please stay home, wash your hands regularly, don’t touch your face, clean and sanitize all common surfaces, and stay calm.
A special note to our summer cabin population: The governor is urging people to stay at home at their primary residence. Our rural hospitals cannot build enough capacity to care for our year-round population plus all of our summer guests during this pandemic. This year, we need you to wait until the governor gives the go-ahead before heading this way. Please know I am not talking about our snowbirds who are returning to their primary residences.
We are unwavering in our commitment to be prepared for whatever the future holds. We are nimble and ready to do health care throughout this pandemic, to take the best care of you. We’re in this together.
We can do this!