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Michael Phelps

Ridgeview Medical Center President & CEO

Some say health care workers are on the “front lines” fighting COVID-19. Our physicians, nurses, caregivers, and those supporting clinical operations are working harder than ever due to COVID’s prevalence in our communities. COVID has been in Minnesota since March and, although we experienced a decline in cases and hospitalizations across the state this summer, we are at another peak. During the last few weeks, the number of individuals testing positive for COVID is at an all-time high and more and more of our families, friends, and colleagues are impacted at home or at work by COVID - many tragically - losing jobs, businesses, or loved ones.

I am not writing today to rehash data points provided by the media or to debate the merits of political decisions made federally or locally. There will be plenty of time for reflection on these matters later. I am writing today as the leader of 2,300 of the most caring and compassionate colleagues a CEO could ask for – and they need your help to stay healthy. For nine months, they have prepared by following Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) or Centers for Disease Control (CDC) requirements on COVID testing, personal protective equipment protocols, facility design, surge planning, patient screening, and staff screening – all to be ready to safely care for a potential COVID hospitalization surge.

Well, that surge is here, folks, and – according to experts to which our industry listens – it will get worse before it gets better. Traditionally, Minnesota hospitals across the state are already at capacity during this time of year, and with the rise in COVID-positive cases across the state, there are many more people in our community requiring hospitalization.

Ridgeview is also experiencing this trend and has had a tenfold increase in COVID hospitalizations, taking up a majority of our staffed adult medical and ICU beds just in the last few weeks. We are now testing 350 people a day in our urgent care facilities, respiratory clinics, and emergency rooms. As community spread continues to grow across the state, caregivers who are exposed or symptomatic need to quarantine, leaving us and other health care systems in shortage of available staff.

I’m merely providing this update, not to alarm you – as Ridgeview is here and able to safely care for you and your loved ones – but to inform our community that your local health care organizations are not anomalies. We are challenged and we are tired; however, we will get through this together, and hope is on the horizon.

A vaccine seems inevitable, but in lieu of an expedient solution to eradicate the virus, Ridgeview is taking additional measures to assure we can be here to care for the growing COVID population while keeping our staff safe. This includes restricting visitors to the hospitals, moving more appointments to video visits, and rescheduling or delaying non-urgent surgical cases to assure appropriate access to care and available staffing. We ask for your understanding and patience with necessary operational changes as we work to assure whatever line of defense against the virus we can implement so Ridgeview will be there for our friends and families needing care.

Again, we ask for your help. As “COVID-message” fatigued as you may be, I want to remind everyone that the first line of defense in holding COVID at bay is taking proactive measures to mitigate spread: wear a mask, social distance, wash or sanitize your hands, get tested, stay at home if sick, and avoid large gatherings. On behalf of your local health care workers, thank you for taking these necessary steps to keep you and your loved ones – and all of us – healthy and safe.

Lastly, I extend a heartfelt Thank You to all of my Ridgeview colleagues; your passion and dedication to our patients are awe-inspiring.

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