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What Minnesota hospitals need now to face surging patient volume in a pandemic

Nov 30, 2021 08:36AM ● By Editor
CentraCare’s Rachel Mockros talks about what it’s like to go from her normal job of being the director of emergency preparedness at the St. Cloud, Minn., hospital to picking up shifts at St. Benedict’s Community as a basic care aide. Photo: Paul Middlestaedt for MPR News

From Minnesota Public Radio News - November 29, 2021

The world is wondering what's next with the new coronavirus variant named omicron. Scientists aren't sure if it is more transmissible and dangerous than the delta variant that has spread rapidly around the world. 

On Monday, the Minnesota Department of Health reported 4,511 new positive cases of COVID-19 and 44 new deaths in the state. Minnesota's hospitals are still overrun with COVID-19 patients and others who need acute medical care.

Dr. Rahul Koranne, president and CEO of the Minnesota Hospital Association, gave host Cathy Wurzer an update on the situation in Minnesota hospitals.

“We’ve called this a crisis, we’ve called this a true catastrophe — I mean, we are running out of words to describe what is happening in our hospitals and health care systems across the state,” Koranne said. 

According to Koranne, the typical Minnesota hospital currently has patients occupying every bed in the emergency department and ICU, and even more patients waiting in the hallways. All patients, not only COVID-19 patients, could face longer waits due to the high volume of patients. 

Space and equipment are not bottlenecks for hospitals right now, Koranne said. To improve the situation in Minnesota hospitals, he recommended two measures: increasing the outflow of patients from hospitals to nursing homes (which requires increasing nursing home capacity) and increasing the number of health care workers in hospitals. 

To boost Minnesota’s health care workforce in the short term, Koranne said reinforcements like the out-of-state military doctors who landed in Minnesota last week could help. But longer term, he said it’s vital for the U.S. to build a pipeline of future health care workers. 

As for Koranne’s advice on reacting to the omicron variant? “We should not panic,” he said. Even if we don’t know much yet about the variant, we do know that if we take safety measures like masking and social distancing and get vaccinated, we are at much lower risk of harm from COVID-19, he explained.

Use the audio player above to listen to the full conversation by following this link to the MPR News website.

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