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Surging COVID-19 cases force hospitals to take drastic measures to address capacity levels

HealthPartners reports 148 COVID patients hospitalized, plus a demand for non-COVID care that's putting hospital capacity at more than 97 percent.

BLOOMINGTON, Minn. — The Minnesota Department of Health is reporting more than 1,200 people are being treated for COVID-19 in hospitals around the state.

HealthPartners says it's currently caring for more patients with COVID than it has all year. There are 148 patients across the system and many of them are at Regions Hospital. 

"But we have many other sick patients that have delayed care," said Regions Chief Medical Officer Dr. Bret Haake.

That's forcing the hospital to take new steps to reduce the strain including:

  • Partnering across the HealthPartners system to address capacity challenges and ensure patients receive the right level of care
  • Collaborating regularly with other care systems and hospitals across the state
  • Prioritizing timely discharges earlier in the day
  • Adapting any available spaces, some unconventional, to provide high-quality care to patients
  • Moving testing/procedures from hospitals when they can be done in an outpatient setting, such as colonoscopies
  • Maximizing use of community paramedics, hospital at home, and telehealth services

"We need to be thoughtful about sore throats, colds and aches and pains and the kinds of things that don't need to be seen in the emergency room in general," Dr. Haake said. "We are not rationing care, but we are absolutely stretching every resource that we have."

Dr. Rahul Koranne, the CEO of the Minnesota Hospital Association, recently wrote an opinion piece. He said that 17,500 health care workers quit the industry just last month due to burnout, retirement, and general job stress.

Dr. Haake calling his employees resilient and committed, but admitted this current situation isn't sustainable.

"If I could snap my fingers and have everyone who's not vaccinated, vaccinated within one week, this would go away," Dr. Haake said. "I would hope to think people would want it to go away."

Allina Health and CentraCare are reporting the same problems. CentraCare says the ER at its St. Cloud hospital has so many patients, they have to wait several hours until they can get the care they need.

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