Throughout the past year – a year filled with shutdowns, mask mandates, hand sanitizing stations everywhere and more because of COVID-19 – Alomere Health, like many other businesses, had to cut back some of its services.
During the height of the pandemic, the Douglas County-owned hospital had to reduce the number of elective surgeries because the nurses who work in the surgery center were needed for COVID patients. And at one point, the hospital had to cut all elective surgeries because there were critical care patients that needed to be taken care of.
But now as restrictions are being lifted, COVID cases are decreasing, and more and more businesses are opening back up, services for the hospital, such as elective surgeries, are opened back up and the surgery center is back to being fully staffed.
“Surgeries are going well,” said Zachary Dahlheimer, director of surgical services at Alomere Health. “We are wide open now.”
Dahlheimer noted, though, that no matter if patients have had their COVID-19 vaccine, they are still required to do a pre-op COVID test.
Throughout the whole past year, as is always the case, patient safety comes first, according to Mike Doyle, administrative director for Heartland Orthopedic Specialists, a service of Alomere Health. He said patients still have to wear masks and that Alomere still has COVID-19 guidelines it has to adhere to.
Doyle said the number of surgical cases, especially elective type procedures, continue to improve. Although he said there is still a small percent of the population who are not comfortable yet being in a medical facility because they have a fear that they might “catch COVID here.”
“You can have surgeries. You can get your colonoscopies,” he stated. “We are taking all the necessary precautions. It is safe to be here.”
Dahlheimer agreed, saying that the hospital setting is safe and is “definitely safer than going into a department store.”
"You can have surgeries. You can get your colonoscopies. We are taking all the necessary precautions. It is safe to be here."
- Mike Doyle, administrative director for Heartland Orthopedic Specialists, a service of Alomere Health
Doyle said that during the past year, the hospital has seen a decrease in colonoscopies and other health screening procedures, but that patients shouldn’t put them off any longer. Dahlheimer said, “It is important to stay on top of your health screenings. If you’ve put it off, now is the time to come in. You’ll be better off.”
Doyle also said that during the past year, when people were working from home or just staying home because of the governor’s orders, they were not as active and the knee that had been bothering them or the shoulder that was causing them pain went away. But now as people are out and about more and becoming more active, those issues are coming to the forefront once again.
And for some of those people, it might mean finally having that surgery they have been putting off. Again, Doyle stated that people can do the surgeries or have the procedures they need. The surgery center is open and hospital staff are taking all the necessary precautions to keep patients safe.
Alomere Health, according to Doyle, is considered a regional hospital and because of that the volume of cases is high. In 2019, just at the orthopedic center alone, there were patients from 186 different zip codes, he said. In that same year, there were nearly 700 joint replacement surgeries performed.
“When you have that many procedures, you are prepared,” he said. “We do a lot of them and we do them well.”
Doyle and Dahlheimer also noted that Alomere Health offers a wide array of surgical services and it offers cutting-edge technology with robotic-assisted surgeries.
With a light at the end of the COVID-19 tunnel, they both said that if there are people who have been putting off a surgical procedure or necessary health screening, now is the time to do it.
“We have the ability to take care of our patients. It’s safe and we can take care of you,” said Doyle.
About the surgery center
According to the Alomere Health website, the surgery center is a state-of-the-art facility consisting of 10 operating rooms, outpatient pre-op and post-op care area, post anesthesia care unit, endoscopy unit and consulting outpatient clinics. Approximately 8,400 procedures are performed per year in the Surgery Center.
Alomere Health is the first hospital in west-central Minnesota to introduce robotic-assisted surgery with the da Vinci Xi Robot.
Robotic-assisted surgery extends the eyes and hands of the surgeon, giving them another tool that offers high-definition 3D magnification – for clear views even through other tissues. And the specialized robotic-assisted instruments also amplify surgical dexterity and precision.