In striving to continue to do what is best for life at Bethesda, as well as the community, Bethesda has independently arranged the opportunity to begin regular coronavirus (COVID-19) testing for all Bethesda team members, residents and tenants within its system of care.
“These past few weeks have been a living testament to the tenacity of our organization as we have diligently pursued our mission as one – serving others together in faith, community and life,” said Michelle Haefner, Bethesda president and chief executive officer. “As access to COVID-19 testing continues to remain particularly challenging for long-term care and senior housing settings, we made the decision to pursue our own solution for all those who call Bethesda home and entrust their work lives with us. Bethesda has recently established a private relationship with a testing laboratory that will enable us to provide weekly, on-site and on-demand testing for our entire organization, regardless of symptom presentation.”
“At this point, Bethesda will be the only senior care provider within the state with access to weekly proactive and comprehensive testing. This is a significant undertaking. We are prepared to test nearly 1,000 individuals on a weekly basis,” Haefner said.
Bethesda is one of the 10 largest skilled nursing facilities in Minnesota, with 248 skilled nursing beds. In addition, Bethesda provides 182 senior housing apartments, with 50 in Olivia, and 132 in Willmar. Bethesda also is one of the largest employers in Willmar and Olivia, with approximately 530 employees.
Under this innovative partnership, Bethesda will begin weekly COVID-19 testing throughout its organization’s skilled nursing and congregate housing facilities in Willmar and Olivia.
“It is our belief that our best defense against this unseen enemy is regular, broad-scale testing. We understand that this practice may result in increased case confirmations through the identification of asymptomatic carriers within our settings,” Haefner said. “However, this vital knowledge will equip our teams to proactively prevent asymptomatic spread, saving the health and wellbeing for all at Bethesda while creating a positive impact for our local communities.”
As test kits arrive, Bethesda has begun its notification process for all employees, residents, tenants and family representatives. The testing administered by the specially trained Bethesda nurses will be identical to what people experience at a local clinic or hospital yet remain readily available to all asymptomatic individuals connected to the organization. Symptomatic persons will be directed to receive testing at their local COVID-19 testing facility.
Test samples will be sent to an offsite laboratory that Bethesda has independently contracted with, and results are expected to be returned within 48 to 72 hours. The private lab will report all test results to the Minnesota Department of Health in accordance with all established guidelines.
If a test comes back positive, the person will be notified promptly, and contact tracing will begin as it currently does. Bethesda team members, residents, tenants and clients who might have experienced potential exposure will continue to be notified, as well. Bethesda’s established staff screening process and infection control strategies will continue to be implemented.
“Our goal is to begin weekly testing for our employees beginning Friday, May 15, and our residents and tenants the week of May 18-22. Bethesda has made the financial commitment to cover any out-of-pocket costs associated to testing that may arise for anyone tested through our process,” Haefner said. “We look forward to beginning the regular testing for all at Bethesda as our best defense in mitigating the threat of spread of this virus within our system of care. We are proud to be able to take this next step in protecting our residents, tenants, staff and our community.”
Ongoing case confirmation results will be shared via the COVID-19 page on our website.
Bethesda is a not-for-profit social ministry organization dedicated to serving seniors in West Central Minnesota through residential and community-based health and wellness services. Bethesda, which has been caring for seniors for more than 100 years, provides a full continuum of care, including skilled nursing care, short-stay therapy centers, home health care, outpatient therapy, independent and assisted living, adult day services, and a wellness center.