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Health care providers make changes to cope with coronavirus spread

On Monday both HealthPartners and Children's Minnesota announced operational changes, from clinic hours to clinic responsibilities and visit requirements.
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The advance of the coronavirus pandemic is a dynamic, evolving process, and Twin Cities health care providers are making changes themselves to better treat and stop the spread of the virus. 


On Monday, HealthPartners announced temporary changes that will impact both HealthPartners and Park Nicollet primary and specialty care clinics across the Twin Cities. Beginning Tuesday, March 24, operating hours will be reduced to 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., with no in-person visits before or after those posted hours. 

Urgent care locations will continue to operate from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. on weekdays, and 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekends.

Another big change for Health Partners involves four clinics being designated as respiratory care sites. These clinics will be dedicated to seeing patients with respiratory symptoms, such as fever, cough, shortness of breath and sore throat, who require a face-to-face visit. 

The respiratory sites are:

  • Park Nicollet Plymouth Clinic
  • Park Nicollet Lakeville Clinic
  • HealthPartners St. Paul Clinic (Wabasha St.)
  • Stillwater Medical Group Curve Crest Clinic

Patients at all HealthPartners ambulatory care sites, including Park Nicollet clinics and clinics in the St. Croix Valley and western Wisconsin, will be screened for respiratory symptoms and then presented with the appropriate care option based on their need:

  • Patients with mild to moderate symptoms should continue to recover at home and have the option to schedule a phone or video visit with their clinician. 
  • Patients without respiratory symptoms who require a face-to-face visit will be directed to one of the non-respiratory care sites.
  • Patients with respiratory symptoms who require a face-to-face visit will be directed to one of the four respiratory care sites.

For the most current information on hours, clinics and treatment options visit the coronavirus section on the HealthPartners website. 

On Tuesday, HealthPartners announced it will expand its mental health care access though video visits.

Officials say clinicians were trained to use video visits to assess, serve and treat patients during the coronavirus pandemic.

In one week, HealthPartners completed 2,145 video visits across all care areas, including 200 that were specific to mental health care. They say there are more than 3,000 video visits scheduled for the next week, and 850 mental health video visits within the next two weeks.

HealthPartners will also be utilizing video visits for other services as well.

Examples include:

  • Outpatient visits with psychiatry clinicians;
  • Adult and child therapy; and
  • Group therapy as part of hospitalization and intensive outpatient programming.

Children's Minnesota

Also on Tuesday, Children's Minnesota announced some changes to its operations in the wake of Governor Tim Walz's Stay at Home order to offer a "safe space where families feel comfortable." To do so, Children’s is also designating specific clinics or appointment times for patients who are feeling well, or those who are sick and worry they may have contracted the coronavirus. 

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Families that believe their child may have COVID-19 (coronavirus), or another illness are urged to call their primary care clinic and express their concerns before coming in. When bringing a child into the clinic, Children’s Minnesota highly advises that only one parent or guardian accompany them. If possible, siblings should not come to the appointment. 

Walk-in appointments for ill visits are available at three Children’s Minnesota clinics. While these changes are temporary, Children's says they will last until further notice.

In consideration of the Stay at Home mandate, Children’s Minnesota will offer limited essential care appointments to newborn visits and well-child checks for children ages 2 and under. This is consistent with recommendations by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Other well-child visits will have to wait for a later date. 

Some specialty care clinics at Children’s Minnesota have also introduced changes or temporarily closed to keep patients and their families safe during the COVID-19 pandemic. Behavioral health visits have been converted from on-site appointments to telehealth visits. Urgent mental health visits will continue to take place in clinics. 

Children's may expand Telehealth coverage to other areas as the battle against coronavirus moves forward. 

More information is available at the Children's Minnesota website.

Essentia Health

Essentia Health announced that it will be limiting visitors, reducing its staffing and adjusting resources in anticipation for a surge in coronavirus cases.

In a press release Tuesday, Essentia said beginning Wednesday, April 1, patients visiting any Essentia Health clinic are asked to attend their appointments alone. Limited exceptions include one additional person being allowed to come with children, obstetric patients and adult patients that require assistance. Anyone accompanying a patient to a clinic appointment is required to be healthy and at least 18 years old.

That announcement follows policy changes handed down Monday, that include redeploying employees to best position Essentia Health to care for patients, while responding to financial impacts caused by a reduction in services due to the pandemic. As a result, several hundred employees who are not involved in direct patient care have been placed on a special administrative leave. 

Essentia has postponed "routine" appointments and even closed some clinics.

“Essentia Health is focused on keeping our staff and communities safe while addressing the challenges of this pandemic,” said David C. Herman, MD, chief executive officer at Essentia. “We are collaborating with regional partners to share resources and ensure a coordinated response in anticipation of an expected COVID-19 surge. Predictive modeling is taking place both within Essentia Health and via our partners across the states we serve. This data-informed modeling will improve our preparedness.” 

According to the release, about 500 of our 14,500 employees are being placed on special administrative leave. Essentia is providing support for affected staff members by maintaining health insurance for the near term. These employees can take vacation time or paid time off to lessen the financial impact, as well as unpaid leave. They also can apply for unemployment benefits, which have been expanded and extended by recent legislation. Essentia is offering access to employee-assistance programs like financial counseling, as well as other counseling resources. 

“The decision to refocus our operations for the coming COVID-19 surge is difficult because we deeply appreciate the contributions of all our Essentia colleagues,” Dr. Herman said. “We recognize and regret the hardship this uncertainty will have on our coworkers and their families.”

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