COVID-19 Update from Jason Huikko, M.D.
SCMC Family Medicine Physician & Chief of Staff
More than a month has passed since the stay-at-home order went into effect. This has been valuable time for the state to prepare for Minnesota’s surge in COVID-19 patients. Over the past couple of weeks we have also seen the state government gradually bring back more of the economy, although with modifications, from their normal operations. Stevens Community Medical Center has also taken this time to adequately prepare for the possibility of caring for COVID-19 patients as well as make modifications to their normal practices in an effort to minimize the risk of spreading the coronavirus.
The following actions were taken over the past several weeks:
- Screening everyone at the entrance for fever and symptoms of COVID-19. A new screening booth was recently built to move this screening outside the main entrance.
- We re-designed part of the clinic space to create a respiratory area of the clinic which is separate from the rest of the clinic and urgent care. This respiratory area of the clinic is open every day of the week with the same hours as urgent care.
- We continue to build our supply of PPE to ensure that we can continue to adequately protect our staff when evaluating and treating patients with symptoms of COVID-19. The community has been a great partner in this effort with homemade masks and gowns.
- We are also asking everybody within the building to wear a mask as “source control” given that we now know that COVID-19 has significant asymptomatic spread. If you have your own mask at home we asked that you wear it when you are coming to the clinic or hospital.
- We have also set up an area outside of the building where lab tests can be drawn to reduce the number of people needing to enter the building. The site is by appointment which can be arranged by the provider ordering your lab tests.
- Video visits are now available for certain medical concerns that can be adequately addressed without an in-person office visit for individuals that are signed up for MyChart.
- We continue to limit visitors. We understand some patients need to have a caregiver/friend accompany them to an appointment but we ask that this is limited to 1 individual.
- Our testing capabilities for the coronavirus have improved. We have the ability to test all symptomatic patients at this time. This will increase our ability to detect active COVID-19 infection in the community.
The staff at SCMC feels that the changes we have made over the past several weeks will allow us to move forward providing care for our patients in as safe an environment as possible.
Changes effective May 4 include:
1. Primary care providers will begin having regular weekly schedules although on a reduced number of days each week. We are staggering the days that we are in the clinic to reduce the number of patients coming into the building on any given day. If the demand for appointments is high we will increase the number of days each provider is in the clinic.
2. Specialists such as General Surgery, Dermatology, Podiatry, Optometry, and Orthopedics will also open up scheduled appointment times as demand dictates.
3. We are reserving appointments before 10 a.m. for patients 65 and older. This will allow this group of patients who are at higher risk from COVID-19 to be cared for in the clinic before the rest of the community comes into the building.
We understand that some people will still be concerned about going out in public while the pandemic is ongoing and providers will continue to work with these patients as best we can utilizing the tools that we have available. However, with an uncertain timeframe for when the pandemic will end, SCMC will continue to adapt and adjust as needed so we can provide for all medical needs while remaining vigilant to the threat of COVID-19. Thank you to the community for your support and understanding during these difficult times.