Community Memorial Hospital recently announced it resumed elective procedures and other in-person treatment at the Cloquet facility.

CMH stopped elective procedures and many patient visits to prepare for an expected spike in COVID-19 infections in Carlton County.

Community Memorial Hospital CEO Rick Breuer
Community Memorial Hospital CEO Rick Breuer

“We felt we needed to stockpile (personal protective equipment), keep beds open for this rush of patients that might be coming,” CMH CEO Rick Breuer said. “We didn’t want to subject any patients to a medical procedure after which they might be compromised and get infected. What we’ve seen so far is that the surge has been slower, lower and pushed out.”

CMH resumed elective surgeries this week following recommendations from Gov. Tim Walz and the Minnesota Department of Health. Guidelines established to ensure the safety of patients and staff include the testing of all patients for COVID-19 with the test results known prior to surgery. Patients testing positive for COVID-19 will not be allowed to have elective surgical procedures. The number of surgeries scheduled per day will still be far fewer than before the outbreak to allow for thorough cleaning and sanitizing between patients. Elective surgeries that require an overnight stay at the hospital will continue to be delayed if possible, Breuer said, and only one visitor will be allowed per patient. Other restrictions on visitors during the outbreak remain in place at CMH.

“Most inpatient surgeries, if it’s elective and can be deferred, are still going to try to defer it,” he said. “With any procedure you can reach a point where you just can’t wait. The outcomes might be poorer if you wait or the suffering that the person is enduring is just something that can’t be put off. It does consume more resources and we don’t want to start depleting resources, we don’t want to use up all of our beds. It's a prioritization of what surgeries to schedule and when.”

In addition to surgeries, other areas of the hospital — like the imaging department, diabetes education staff, cardiac rehabilitation and others — are beginning to see patients again. Appointments are limited to ensure the safety of patients and staff and allow for ample cleaning time between appointments. Patients will also be screened for symptoms of COVID-19 prior to entering the CMH building.

Reopening could cause cases to go up

Earlier this week, Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz announced he planned to allow the stay-at-home order in Minnesota to expire May 18 and begin partially opening some nonessential businesses and retailers.

As more people emerge from their homes and testing ramps up, the number of documented cases will likely increase, but that doesn’t necessarily mean an increase in hospitalizations or fatalities, according to Breuer.

“We do have the adequate amount of people, beds and equipment to take care of patients as they come in,” he said. “This is a more serious and contagious disease than influenza, but with the time that we’ve been given here, our medical personnel better understand how to treat the disease and have built up extra capacity.”

Breuer also emphasized the need for people to continue social distancing, avoid large gatherings and wear masks as Minnesota begins to slowly reopen businesses and other nonessential services.

“We are seeing other states opening up and doing mass gatherings and not protecting themselves,” Breuer said. “I really hope that we will do better than that. We need to still socially distance, still wear our masks, still be careful with each other. The virus hasn’t just magically disappeared.”

CMH visitation policy during the COVID-19 pandemic

  • Visitors are restricted to one per patient unless they are hospice or end-of-life.

  • Pediatric patients are allowed to have two guardians with them.

  • Absolutely no children are allowed to visit, with the exception of hospice or end-of-life care

  • There are no visitors to SHCC unless they are hospice or end-of-life.

24-hour nurse hotline: 218-499-6799.