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ER adjusts practices but stands ready

Alomere Health emergency room doctors and nurses don their new COVID-19 masks. (Contributed)

Although many of the health conversations have been revolving around COVID-19 during the past couple of months, other medical issues and problems are still out there and happening in this community.

Bones are still broken, stitches are still needed, strokes and heart attacks or even minor medical emergencies are occurring and the nurses and doctors at the emergency room at Alomere Health in Alexandria are standing by and ready to help.

The ER is a safe place to go if an emergency arises, said Lori Rosch, registered nurse and director of Alomere’s emergency room.

“We want people to know they can feel safe coming here,” she said. “We have concerns that people are staying home and if someone is having a medical emergency, we want them to know we are here if they need us.”

Rosch said when people come to the hospital, they need to check in at the ER desk. If the symptoms are related to the coronavirus, the necessary precautions are taken. If they are not related, then it is business as usual.


If a person is brought in by another person, that person will be asked to wait in the car or head home and the ER will notify him or her when the patient is either ready for pickup or if the patient is being admitted.

If a person calls 911 and is brought into the ER via ambulance, 911 dispatchers are asking questions to determine whether or not the person has coronavirus symptoms. The reason, said Rosch, is because that way when law enforcement and emergency responders arrive on scene, they know whether they should don the necessary personal protective equipment.

If there are no COVID-19 related symptoms, there would be no need for the extra protection, which then saves that equipment for when it is really needed. Dispatchers and EMS workers share information with the ER staff on whether a patient has COVID-19 symptoms so that the ER staff can also be prepared.

Rosch said EMS, law enforcement, dispatchers and hospital staff work collaboratively with each other to make sure everyone is on the same page and protected when needed.

“This way, we are not over utilizing our PPE’s,” she said, referring to personal protective equipment.

No visitors are allowed at this time, unless there are extenuating circumstances or if the patient is a minor child. Then, at least one parent or legal guardian can be with the child.

Dr. David Odland, medical director for Alomere’s emergency room, said emergency room staff take each person on a case-by-case basis.

Alomere’s emergency room has 13 rooms and currently, 10 of those rooms are negative pressure rooms, meaning the air flow changes at a more rapid rate.


“It means we get clean air much quicker,” said Odland, adding that the hospital’s engineer department deserves high praise for getting the rooms changed over to negative pressure rooms so quickly. He said it was greatly appreciated.

Rosch said all staff in the ER wear the necessary personal protective equipment such as eye protection, masks and gloves. In addition, she said that masks, many of which have been donated by the sewers of the Helping Hands of Alexandria group, are handed out to everyone.

“Masks help with source control,” she said. “They are an excellent way to help stop the spread of the virus.”

Recently, the ER staff started wearing a different type of mask. Rosch said they are Halyard masks and are made from the same material surgical instruments are wrapped in. She said they are 99.7% effective. She also noted that the hospital is continually researching products that will help keep staff and patients as healthy as possible.

Odland said when it comes to testing patients for the COVID-19 virus, the hospital has been able to test more patients. In addition, he said the Mayo Clinic is now able to test antibodies, which can reflect if a previous infection was related to the coronavirus.

Both Odland and Rosch said the best thing for community members to do is reach out to their health care providers. Health care providers can help determine if a patient should just stay home or if there is a need to be seen in person. Additionally, health care facilities are now offering more when it comes to e-visits. Many are able to conduct face-to-face video visits over the internet.

When it comes to the ER, both Rosch and Odland said people should know the ER is safe and that if there is an emergency, especially if there is the possibility of a stroke or heart attack, call 911 or get the ER as quickly as possible.

Additionally, the community needs to know the ER is prepared and has access to the necessary PPE if and when needed.

Celeste Edenloff is the special projects editor and a reporter for the Alexandria Echo Press. She has lived in the Alexandria Lakes Area since 1997. She first worked for the Echo Press as a reporter from 1999 to 2011, and returned in 2016 to once again report on the community she calls home.
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