44 federal emergency medical personnel coming to Minnesota; state opening 3rd alternate care site | KSTP.com

44 federal emergency medical personnel coming to Minnesota; state opening 3rd alternate care site

Josh Skluzacek
Updated: November 17, 2021 10:22 PM
Created: November 17, 2021 10:08 AM

Gov. Tim Walz's office announced Wednesday the federal government is sending two emergency staffing teams to help Minnesota hospitals.

The teams, which have 22 medical personnel each, will support staff at Hennepin County Medical Center in Minneapolis and at St. Cloud Hospital, according to Walz's office. They're expected to arrive next week and start treating patients immediately.

"Hospitals around the state need urgent support, and my Administration is using every tool at our disposal to help them," Walz said. "The emergency staffing teams coming to HCMC and St. Cloud Hospital over the next few days will provide an important measure of relief to the healthcare personnel who remain on the frontline of this crisis. Every day, our doctors and nurses are treating Minnesotans sick with COVID-19 or suffering other emergencies. But they are under water, and they need all the help we can give them. I'm grateful the Biden Administration heeded our request and is sending in reinforcements."

The medical help comes as hospitals across the state have faced a large influx of COVID-19 patients, straining hospital capacity. On Tuesday, the Minnesota Department of Health reported 1,348 COVID-19 patients currently hospitalized and 307 in intensive care, numbers not seen since late December 2020. Additionally, only 47 ICU beds were open statewide, Walz's office said.

"We've canceled many, actually all elective surgeries and some semi-elective surgeries in order to not take up additional in-patient capacity," Dr. Daniel Hoody, Hennepin Healthcare's chief medical officer, told 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS on Wednesday. He says it's not just procedures like knee and hip replacements. "There's ... biopsies for presumed cancers. There's actual removal of cancers."

Hoody says the federal medical teams will help HCMC move patients through their medical treatment and hospital system more efficiently.

Kathy Parsons — vice president of population health at CentraCare, the company that runs St. Cloud Hospital — said a team of 22 extra medical professionals would make a difference right away.

“Of course, you know, you always want more, but 22 people taking shifts to see more patients actually is a big help right now — a really big help,” Parsons said.

She said her hospital has plenty of beds but not enough staff to tend to all of them.

“We have more and enough beds, if you will, but it is staffed beds with the right complement of staff that is hard to do right now,” Parsons said. “It’s not really a shortage of beds issue as much as it is a shortage of staff members to cover those patients using those beds.”

Additionally, Walz's office announced the state will open a third alternate care site to create additional bed space in Minnesota long-term care facilities.

Patients who don't need acute emergency care — such as those recovering from surgery — will be eligible to go to one of the alternate sites. The third site, at Cerenity Senior Care-Marian of St. Paul, will open Monday and be able to accept up to 27 patients. The other two alternate care sites — Good Samaritan Society-Bethany in Brainerd and Benedictine St. Gertrude's in Shakopee — can accept up to 34 and 27 patients, respectively.

A team of 10 nurses from federal partners and 15 nursing assistants from the Minnesota National Guard and private vendors will provide care at the Cerenity Senior Care site.

In addition to the moves by Gov. Walz, Dr. Hoody says all Minnesotans can do their part by getting vaccinated or getting booster shots to reduce demand on hospitals.

"The highest percentage of COVID patients that are hospitalized are unvaccinated," he says. "Every additional vaccination that we get in somebody's arm in the state and region is going to make a difference in somebody else's life that needs acute care right now."

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