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100 days of treating COVID patients: Bethesda sees success

M Health Fairview's COVID-19 hospital has higher than average survival rates and low staff infection rates

ST PAUL, Minn — For 100 days, M Health Fairview Bethesda Hospital in St. Paul has treated more than 400 COVID-19 patients. And hospital leaders say the results prove transforming it into a 90-bed specialty hospital was worth it.

"I can't help but think that like a heart hospital or a children's hospital, or a cancer hospital, the outcomes are as good as they are, because we're taking care of the same kinds of patient and doing it in the same way," said Dr. Jeffrey Chipman, who leads the Bethesda ICU.

Chipman patient survival rates of 82% hospital wide and 74% in the ICU are well above averages worldwide. And their doctor and nurse infection rates are remarkably low compared to other hospitals across the world.

"I think it's because we take care of the same patients the same way, and we do it aggressively," Chipman said.

For example, after learning putting patients on their belly or side in the prone position is helpful, they've turned it into a twice daily routine, ICU-wide.

"And they've become experts at it. I think that's affected the way patients are cared for there, and it has improved their outcomes," Chipman said.

Chipman believes the negative airflow installed at Bethesda, which blows the germs from the ICU outside instead of circulating inside, has prevented infecting staff.

"I think that's one of the amazing things about the story," Chipman said. "I think our results show it, with such low healthcare transmission rates.

They've learned from their patients and from their treatments. Those with hypertension, obesity, diabetes and old age tend to do worse with the disease. They've gotten very aggressive in treating blood clots in patients. 

Looking forward to the fall, Bethesda will stay open and ready.

"We are prepared for a second wave. We are hoping there isn't one," Chipman said.

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