With the recent spike in COVID-19 cases in Douglas County, the Echo Press contacted Alomere Health for an update on how it is handling the increased caseload and other challenges brought on by the virus.

In a nutshell, Alomere Health says it is fortunate to have a few things working in its favor – good collaboration with other other health care entities, adequate supplies for patients and staff, and the ability to still offer patient care that’s not related to the virus.

Three of Alomere Health’s leaders collaborated on the following responses – Carl Vaagenes, CEO; Margaret Kalina, chief nursing officer and vice president of patient care; and Eddie Reif, director of community relations.

Q: The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Douglas County has surged from 206 on Sept. 14 to 528 as of Oct. 14, according to the Minnesota Department of Health. How is Alomere handling the extra caseload? What has the impact been?

A: Collaboration between multiple stakeholder groups, both locally as well as regionally. Everything from ambulance, skilled nursing facilities, law enforcement, public health and other health care facilities are in consistent contact with us to ensure every aspect we can control is covered.

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Additionally, Alomere Health has had our respiratory clinic set up since April and we currently have our drive-through testing process in place. At the present time, we have adequate PPE (personal protection equipment) and testing supplies to ensure the safety of our staff and those we care for.

We are being good stewards of supplies, ensuring we are using appropriate PPE and testing when necessary. Also, we feel fortunate to have not had to limit our non-COVID services.

The importance of people to maintain a healthy and positive lifestyle is paramount during times of uncertainty. Our ability to transfer COVID-positive patients has allowed us to maintain our staffing and our outpatient services.

In reality, the most visible impact has been the visitor restrictions we have had to implement to ensure the safety of both our frontline health care workers as well as our patients. We continue to have ongoing discussions and are prepared to manage COVID-positive hospitalizations if needed.

Q: How many ICU beds are available? How many COVID patients are being treated currently?

A: Unfortunately we cannot give you a specific number. Our ability to staff for inpatients is more closely tied to staff availability than it is relative to the number of beds. A sustained increase of COVID-positive patients would force us to reduce our normal clinical offerings to focus on more time-sensitive services.

Q: At one time, Alomere was transferring the more serious COVID patients to CentraCare in St. Cloud. Is that still the case? Do you know how many patients Alomere has referred elsewhere since the start of the pandemic?

A: At the current time, Alomere Health is still able to transfer COVID positive patients to tertiary healthcare facilities which is allowing us to maintain current health care offerings to the community. We are not able to provide you with a number of patients transferred out due to COVID-related complications.

Q: Any other insights you'd like to share?

A: This is a marathon and not a sprint. It is imperative for people to find resiliency in these uncertain times. We would like to encourage people to wear a mask, social distance, protect those at the highest risk, and wash your hands.

We are ready, safe and open for you. We are following guidance to ensure patient safety and prevent the spread of COVID-19 throughout the state.

Emergencies don’t stop, and neither do we. Do not delay care for heart attacks, strokes, falls and other urgent needs. We will continue fighting COVID-19. We will provide our physicians, nurses, other team members and patients everything they need to stay safe. And we’ll continue caring for you and your family. Thank you for doing your part. We are here to do ours.