Your Turn: CentraCare is in crisis and needs our help

·3 min read

COVID-19 has placed our health system in dire straits, created an unprecedented COVID pandemic crisis and limited the men and women of CentraCare from continuing their historic level of excellent patient care.

At current levels, St. Cloud Hospital is full as are the other regional hospitals in CentraCare. ICUs are full throughout the system. At St. Cloud Hospital, COVID patients occupy 25% of the general beds and 70% of the ICU beds – 90% of these patients are unvaccinated. The average stay for a COVID patient in the ICU is 22 days.

John Frobenius
John Frobenius

St. Cloud Hospital has limited capacity to accept referrals from the region. Inpatient surgery that can be deferred is currently being deferred. Patients are not being moved into ICU that should be.

Drugs required to treat COVID-19 patients are being limited by suppliers. Rationing of outpatient treatment options for COVID-19 patients has begun. Not everyone will be able to receive beneficial treatment. All of the above is occurring before the forecasted increase in COVID cases by the Minnesota Department of Health, which has been very accurate to date.

According to University of Washington forecasting, a 43% increase in COVID positive cases is projected by late February. The level of hospitalizations will grow at a similar to slightly lower rate. The same projections suggest the level of new cases could be maintained at a current level if there was at least an 80% use of masks at all inside locations.

In seven days ending Jan. 6, CentraCare did 11,407 COVID-19 diagnostic tests, of which 30% were positive – the rate continues to rise. Five percent is considered a high rate of spread,

At this state of the crisis, there are no more interim steps to be taken by CentraCare. The current level is unsustainable, and the forecasted levels are unfathomable.

They are beginning the following interventions as the volumes increase. No access to ventilators or to the highest levels of care

  • Social distancing throughout.

  • Universal medical grade masking only.

  • No access to ventilators and the highest levels of care (ICU)

  • No ability to continue clinic care

  • No access to surgery except for absolute emergencies.

  • NO visitors

Here is we can do:

  • We are past the point where controversy can determine public policy. Our leaders should immediately enact appropriate rules. We must demand that of them.

  • We, as individuals, must wear a surgical quality mask (KN95, KF94, or medical grade with multiple layers – not cloth) everywhere indoors. That and vaccination are the major tools we have to contain the growth curve. We must limit our public events.

  • We must be vaccinated.

Addendum: I requested information from the CentraCare CEO about various employment issues. Here is some of the information I received:

  • 12,000 employees are compliant with the vaccine requirement and are committed to serving this community.

  • 168 employees are on leave of absence for non-compliance with our vaccine requirement. Most are part-time and most are NOT in clinical roles. None are physicians or advanced practice practitioners. The net impact on nursing is less than 27 full-time nurses (RNs, LPNs, nursing assistants).

  • In the last 12 months, CentraCare has hired 3,200 new employees and filled another 2,200 open jobs with promotions and internal transfers.

— John Frobenius was a president of St. Cloud Hospital and co-president of CentraCare Health until 2003. He became president of the hospital in 1985. The data presented was used in an internal CentraCare program on Jan. 7. Frobenius did not attend but did view a video of the event.

This article originally appeared on St. Cloud Times: CentraCare Health is in crisis and needs our help

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