Certain surgeries delayed at CMH

The Cloquet hospital recently entered into an agreement with St. Luke’s Hospital in Duluth and Lake View Hospital in Two Harbors to try to maximize critical care beds in the region.

Community Memorial Hospital in Cloquet recently began delaying surgical procedures that require an overnight stay. (File / Pine Journal)

As the number of COVID-19 cases in northern Minnesota continues to increase, Cloquet’s Community Memorial Hospital is beginning to delay some non-essential surgeries to free up much-needed beds.

CMH CEO Rick Breuer said the decision was made Thursday, Nov. 5, to reschedule for at least a week certain surgical procedures that aren’t time-sensitive, but require an overnight stay in the hospital.

Breuer, Rick.jpg
Rick Breuer

“For next week we aren’t going to do any of those inpatient surgeries next week,” Breuer said. “That would tend to be like the total hip replacements, the kinds of things that, they’re important — I’ve had loved ones who had it done — but we can delay that a couple weeks and it won’t change the outcome.”


The change came not just because of increasing coronavirus cases in Carlton County, but also because during the early phase of the pandemic, many people didn’t see the doctor about other problems.

“The main reason we're busy right now is not COVID, it's all of the care that was delayed and deferred all spring and summer,” Breuer said. “We have a lot of sick people now, because they weren't keeping up on their care out of fear ... We've got a lot of beds now being occupied by people whose situation just kept getting worse and worse and worse, because they didn't get it taken care of.”

During the initial phase of the lockdown, CMH postponed nearly all elective procedures. During that time, staff worked to develop some criteria to decide when to begin delaying procedures again. However, it’s not simply rising cases that could cause a delay.

“We don't have a chart with simple numbers, because I think that doesn't do the situation justice,” Breuer said “No two patients are alike, no two surgeries are alike, but on a daily basis, we're looking at our current census and our current staffing ... Because our doctors and nurses and techs, they're regular people too and so in their own life, some of them are getting potential exposures or infections or other things. If we lose them for a while, we don’t have all hands on deck.

New partnership with St. Luke’s

CMH also recently entered into a cooperative agreement with St. Luke’s Hospital in Duluth and Lake View Hospital in Two Harbors to try to maximize resources. Every day leaders at all three facilities are communicating about their capacity and if a patient can receive care in Cloquet while freeing up a critical care bed in Duluth, according to Breuer.

“We have a process worked out for that where there is a daily check in,” Breuer said “They're identifying the ideal candidate for, say, a resident of Carlton County who had to go to Duluth for some care, but could be very well cared for at community Memorial at this point. We'd love to take some of those patients on so we're doing some things that we don't normally have to do to look at how we can make the best use of every bed and every staff member we have across the region.”

CMH still has restrictions on visitors to the hospital that have been in place since the spring. Patients in both the hospital and Sunnyside Healthcare are limited to just one visitor at a time, unless it is pediatric care where both parents can come in with a child. Breuer said some exceptions are made for comfort care and end-of-life situations.

Jamey Malcomb has a been high school sports reporter for the Duluth News Tribune since October 2021. He spent the previous six years covering news and sports for the Lake County News-Chronicle in Two Harbors and the Cloquet Pine Journal. He graduated from the George Washington University in 1999 with a bachelor's degree in history and literature and also holds a master's degree in secondary English education from George Mason University.
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