COVID-19 cases continue to rise in Scott County, and some local hospitals are starting to feel overwhelmed with the number of people seeking care.
As of Nov. 16, there have been 295 COVID-19 cases needing hospitalization in Scott County. That number is up by 46 since Nov. 11. A total of 53 cases in Scott County have required ICU care, which is up three from last week.
Dr. Monte Johnson, Vice President for Medical Affairs at St. Francis Regional Medical Center in Shakopee, said in an interview on Nov. 11 that the hospital has been very full over the last several weeks.
“Each day our hospital is very busy, and we have to carefully manage the number of beds we have available and the staff that we have available,” said Dr. Johnson.
At the start of the pandemic, several hospitals limited elective surgeries to ensure there would be enough hospital beds and staff to treat those with COVID-19, but Dr. Johnson does not expect the hospital to go down that route again.
“We are not at this time thinking about completely shutting down surgery. We know that does not serve patients well,” he said.
Instead, staff members are looking at elective surgery schedules on a daily and weekly basis and making adjustments as needed.
“It’s a little bit more of a dynamic kind of prospective, looking ahead process, than a complete shut down,” he said.
Minnesota Department of Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm said, during a press conference on Nov. 10, that in addition to the number of beds available, hospital staffing has become a critical issue across the state.
“We are talking about other creative ways to build up capacity among the workforce. We have the misfortune of having our surge at the same time as a number of other of places around the country are seeing their surge,” she said.
Throughout the pandemic, states that were seeing a surge in COVID-19 cases called on traveling medical professionals to help fight the disease in the country’s hot spots. With Minnesota seeing an increase in cases at the same time as several other states, the worry is that finding traveling medical staff may be more difficult.
“We are reaching out to retired health care professionals, as an example, to think about what we can do to bring them back to roles that are appropriate, in terms of taking some of the duties that can be done by a broader group of professionals, so the folks who are the only ones who can do that critical care are freed up of every other task we can do,” said Malcolm.
Dr. Johnson said St. Francis will continue to use staffing agencies to employ medical professionals from other parts of the country when possible. They may also take staff from other departments within St. Francis’s health system, which is connected to both Allina Health and Park Nicollet.
“There are certain times when there are certain folks in other areas who are not as busy with their patient care, and sometimes we can pull people from other places and they can assist in the care of patients,” he said.
In Scott County, 333 health care workers have tested positive for COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic. In total, 6,302 cases have been confirmed in Scott County, as of Nov. 16.
COVID-19 cases continue to rise in Sibley County as well. Lisa Steinbauer, director of marketing and communications for Ridgeview, stated that they are seeing an increase in COVID-19 positive patients and hospitalizations at all of their locations.
“With increased COVID-19 testing and cases throughout the state, the time frame in which patients receive test results is taking several days or longer,” Steinbauer said.
Right now, Ridgeview offers COVID-19 evaluation and testing for symptomatic persons at its clinics in Belle Plaine, Excelsior and Delano and at its urgent care locations in Arlington and Le Sueur.
Dr. Gokhan Anil, Southwest Minnesota regional chair of clinical practice for the Mayo Clinic Health System, said the clinic’s Southwest Minnesota region is also experiencing increases in hospitalized COVID-19 patients.
On Nov. 11, he said in a statement that the influx of patients is putting serious strain on hospital resources.
“While we are prepared to respond to growing COVID-19 cases in the region, it is vital that everyone in our communities remain vigilant, so our medical facilities do not exceed capacity. You can do your part to slow the spread of COVID-19 by avoiding medium and large gatherings, masking, social distancing, and washing your hands regularly,” he said.
That’s exactly the message that Dr. Johnson wants to make clear.
“The thing that will really help us solve some of this issue with staffing and very busy hospitals are the things we’ve been asking people to do all along to slow the spread of COVID,” he said.