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COVID-19 hospitalizations continue to put a strain on rural Minnesota hospitals

"We are seeing COVID-19 patients that are much sicker, and numbers up to 13 or 14 patients in our hospital at a time," said Dr. Ulrika Wirget.

SAUK CENTRE, Minn. — Mounting COVID hospitalizations are placing enormous strain on Minnesota's small, rural hospitals, as cases continue to heavily occupy available hospital bed capacity.

"Sauk Centre is a town of about 4,000 people here," said Dr. Ulrika Wigert, with CentraCare Sauk Centre. "Usually, we take care of, before COVID-19, about five to six patients in our hospital a day," said Dr. Wigert. "We are seeing COVID-19 patients that are much sicker, and numbers up to 13 or 14 patients in the hospital at a time that are stretching our capacity," said Dr. Wigert.

As of last week, COVID-19 hospitalizations across the state increased to 1,245 - with close to 300 needing intensive care.

The highest it's been for the year. 

"We are all full. This is not getting better," said Minnesota Nurses Association President, Mary Turner.

Turner says the same can be said for hospitals in the metro area. Hospital groups like CentraCare say although there were staffing challenges before the pandemic, the strains of the past 20 months have made things worse.

"We don't have the same amount of nurses that we had a year ago," said Turner. "I'm speaking for every small critical access hospital across our state right now," said Dr. Wigert.

Dr. Wigert says it's difficult to find available ICU beds, with some hospitals up to 85 miles away reaching out for available space.

"We did take a medical patient that they didn't have capacity to admit in their facility from Montevideo here in Sauk Centre," said Dr. Wigert.

Hospital staff say while they are open and ready to take care of sick patients, they're urging people to stay safe and get vaccinated.

"We want to know that people are doing what they can to support us by being smart through this," said Dr. Wigert.

Here's what CentraCare's website suggests individuals can do to help out:

  • Please get your COVID vaccines and booster shots. They are proven safe and effective in reducing COVID illness, keeping people out of the hospital, and preventing death.
  • If your situation is not an emergency, please use other care options, including:
  • If this is a medical emergency, call 9-1-1, or visit the ER.

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