Throughout the pandemic, Bethesda has strived to provide as much information as possible about the virus, through various means of communication, about positive cases, Bethesda’s policies, and options for family and friends to remain connected with their loved one.
In its commitment to transparency for the benefit of the community, Bethesda believes it is important to provide an update as to its current COVID-19 situation.
“By remaining transparent and providing information up front, we hope others can understand the decisions we are making and are able to respond accordingly,” said Michelle Haefner, chief executive officer and president at Bethesda.
Just as Kandiyohi County and Willmar’s test positivity rates have risen, Bethesda also has seen an increase in the number of residents, tenants and staff who have tested positive in recent weeks – however at a slower rate of increase.
“We’ve been prepared for a moment like this since March. So now we work our COVID-19 response plan, knowing that it has been thoroughly reviewed and exceedingly surpassed requirements set forth by the Minnesota Department of Health on several occasions. We’re as ready for the unknown as we possibly can be, with sufficient personal protective equipment and supplies ready to care for those in need,” said Haefner.
Bethesda’s COVID unit, which was built this spring to accommodate nine people has recently been reactivated. Due to predicting the increased community need, Bethesda proactively expanded the COVID unit last week to accommodate the care needs for up to 15 COVID positive people. Since the expansion, Bethesda has received additional positive case results and its COVID care team is currently caring for 14 residents and one tenant.
“After reviewing the data, and considering a number of factors, including the increasing positivity rate for our community and the likelihood that more residents or tenants could test positive, we have decided to be proactive and expand the COVID unit to be best prepared to care for more people,” said Haefner. “Throughout this pandemic, we have worked diligently to be prepared for a number of scenarios related to COVID-19, from increasing the amount of personal protective equipment such as masks, gloves and gowns, to creating a stocked and staffed COVID unit, to training staff to best care for those residents and tenants who test positive. Now that the new expansion is at its capacity, we are evaluating the activation of our secondary COVID response plans.”
Haefner went on to explain that although the unit is currently at capacity, there will be fluidity with individuals recovering and returning to their neighborhoods once appropriate.
Since May, Bethesda has been testing staff on a weekly basis, and residents and tenants as needed. As of today, Bethesda nurses have conducted 16,994 COVID-19 tests onsite.
As of Nov. 1, Bethesda was required by the Minnesota Department of Health and Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, to test staff and residents twice a week because of the high positivity rate in Kandiyohi County.
For the week of Nov. 8, test results show positive cases at Bethesda include: three residents of Bethesda Grand, four tenants at Centennial Square, two tenants at Sunrise Village Independent Living, and 17 staff. Bethesda also has been notified that a tenant, who was being cared for outside of Bethesda’s senior living community, has died from complications related to COVID-19.
“It is with a great sadness that Bethesda shares a death related to COVID-19 complications,” said Haefner. “Our hearts go out to all who are affected by the COVID-19 virus, but specifically to this person’s family and friends. At this difficult time, we extend our deepest sympathy to the family. We are heartbroken to have lost a member of our Bethesda family.”
For the week of Nov. 15, test results show additional positive cases at Bethesda: 14 residents of Bethesda Grand, five tenants at Centennial Square, one tenant at Sunrise Village Assisted Living, one tenant at Sunrise Village Independent Living, and 17 staff. Park View Village assisted living in Olivia, Minnesota, remains free from any positive coronavirus cases. Due to HIPAA, Bethesda cannot provide further information about these private individuals.
The most vital asset in the fight against coronavirus continues to remain adequate staffing. “Bethesda employs approximately 480 people, and while staffing has been challenging, it has not met a critical-state for Bethesda, as it has been for other health care settings within our community and state,” said Haefner. “We are fortunate to have a diverse and well-trained group of team members, who are willing to pick up extra shifts and cover for co-workers who are quarantining or recovering at home.”
“Last Thursday, Willmar was mentioned during the governor’s press briefing, which emphasized the current challenges in front of our health care community. Minnesota is at crucial point in this pandemic and we could, unfortunately, find ourselves down a dire path with devastating results,” Haefner said. “We echo their plea for the general public to wear a mask, stay home when they are sick, and simply do their part to help ensure our front-line workers can stay as protected from this virus as possible so that they may be able to continue caring for the ones you love.”
Bethesda remains vigilant in its efforts to reduce exposure to and the spread of this virus. Bethesda is taking all appropriate measures to protect all who call Bethesda home and to protect all who work on its campuses from this virus. Daily protocols include the continuation of active screening for all team members and residents for symptoms. However, Bethesda recognizes the reality that people who have COVID-19 can be contagious while being asymptomatic, making it difficult to diagnose someone without testing.
“With COVID-19 testing available in our area, we believe that ongoing testing of all symptomatic and asymptomatic residents and caregivers will be an important tool to help stop the spread of this virus within any long-term care or congregate living setting,” Haefner said. “The sooner we are able to know who has been affected, the sooner we can contain this virus and keep our community safe.”
However, testing alone cannot eliminate this virus, Haefner said. “It comes down to personal actions. Please take this virus seriously, for the sake of yourself, your loved ones, the healthcare community, residents of long-term care facilities and congregate facilities, as well as for our staff, who we need here to care for your loved ones. Our staff – our frontline workers – are working hard to keep residents and tenants safe and healthy. It is imperative that people wear a mask, properly distance, and follow guidelines set forth by the executive orders, Minnesota Department of Health, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. These steps will be a strong defense in combating this invisible, yet potentially dangerous virus.”