In striving to do what’s best for the people at Bethesda, as well as the overall wellbeing of the greater community, two area health care facilities are working with Bethesda on testing for coronavirus (COVID-19).
Bethesda has been working closely with HealthPartners Olivia Hospital & Clinic, formerly RC Hospital & Clinics in Olivia, and with Carris Health in Willmar to conduct COVID-19 tests of some Bethesda residents and team members.
“We appreciate our partnerships with HealthPartners Olivia Hospital & Clinic and Carris Health because they reflect a positive, proactive approach to addressing COVID-19 and helping to prevent it from spreading not only within our Bethesda facilities but also in area communities,” Haefner said. “The testing assistance from HealthPartners Olivia Hospital & Clinic and Carris Health is integral in keeping our residents and team members safe and healthy.”
Bethesda provides care and housing to seniors in West Central Minnesota through independent living, assisted living and skilled nursing facilities in Willmar and Olivia.
After a team member at Bethesda Grand in Willmar tested positive for COVID-19, the testing that began and the chain of events that followed evolved quickly and was handled professionally by all involved, Haefner said.
The Minnesota Department of Health on April 26 notified Bethesda that a Bethesda Grand resident tested positive for COVID-19, Haefner said.
“RC Hospital arrived at 5 a.m. on April 27 at Bethesda Grand in Willmar to obtain samples from residents. Samples were sent the same day to MDH, and results were obtained less than 24 hours later,” said Nathan Blad, president of HealthPartners Olivia Hospital & Clinic.
“Rapid testing is necessary for the protection of long-term care communities,” Haefner said. “We appreciate HealthPartners Olivia Hospital & Clinic’s quick response to our need for Bethesda Grand residents to be tested. We are grateful they were willing to partner with us and come from Olivia to Willmar for additional testing. HealthPartners Olivia Hospital & Clinic also provided curbside testing for Bethesda Grand team members, which was integral in helping to reduce exposure to and prevent the spread of the virus.”
Since onsite testing and mobile lab collections have been in use for years, such as mobile blood donation for the American Red Cross, it made sense to respond in similar way for COVID-19 testing, Blad said.
“In this instance, COVID-19 is easily transmissible, therefore going to the site of the exposure will limit the contact our facility will have with potential COVID-19 positive individuals,” Blad added.
“As results of Bethesda Grand team members’ COVID-19 tests start to come in, we have learned of three more positive cases. Two of these team members had not been working for several days prior to showing symptoms. The co-workers of the third team member have been tested, and we are waiting for additional results. We are notifying any team members individually if they need to be tested or need to take additional precautions,” Haefner said.
Bethesda’s onsite infection preventionist nurse is working with Minnesota Department of Health to perform tracing on employee contact.
“Through the investigation of exposure, it was deemed that the team members’ exposure to the virus came from outside of Bethesda and was community acquired and was not related to Bethesda internally. COVID-19 is now widespread throughout Kandiyohi County, and the few cases we have we are trying to keep to a minimum,” Haefner said.
Haefner extended her appreciation to Carris Health for assisting with the COVID-19 testing of some Bethesda team members because broad testing is important.
In response to the COVID-19 situation in our communities, Dr. Ken Flowe, Carris Health COVID-19 co-incident commander said, “Carris Health is supportive of area businesses, including Bethesda and all long-term care facilities in our communities. Together, we work in close partnership with our local public health officials and the Minnesota Department of Health. This collaboration allows for timely and accurate responses and tracking.”
Of the 39 resident tests that were conducted earlier, 38 have been lab-confirmed as negative, with one resident passing away with a positive COVID-19 test, as already reported by Bethesda.
“This high volume of negative tests results speaks to the strict infection control procedures we have in place at Bethesda,” Haefner said. “However, one person’s passing is one too many, and we continue to offer our sympathy and support to the family. We remain vigilant in our efforts to reduce exposure to and the spread of this virus. We are taking all appropriate measures to protect all who call Bethesda home and all who work on our campuses from this virus. We are screening team members and residents for symptoms on a daily basis. However, people who have COVID-19 can be contagious while being asymptomatic, making it difficult to diagnose someone without testing.”
With COVID-19 testing becoming more available in our area, “it is our belief that ongoing testing of all symptomatic and asymptomatic residents and caregivers will be the only way to stop the spread of this virus within any long-term care or congregate living setting,” Haefner said. “We know that the number one resource we have in this fight is knowledge. That is why we will continue to pursue further testing for our residents and staff. The sooner we are able to know who has been affected, the sooner we can contain this virus and keep our community safe. Our residents and our team members deserve to have access to asymptomatic testing, and we are heavily pursuing that. Testing will be the strongest resource we will have in combatting this disease.”
Blad agreed with Haefner. “Testing is extremely important. Knowing the cause of an illness may lead to more specific treatment options. I support testing for COVID-19, especially in long term care facilities where residents, nursing, providers, and support staff are at risk and self-isolation is difficult,” he said. “Our team feels that expanding testing to all patients is instrumental in assisting with the isolation process and stopping the spread of COVID-19. We live our mission daily, assisting our neighbors and creating community connections is part of what our team does daily, living our values, every day.”
Bethesda, HealthPartners Olivia Hospital & Clinic, and Carris Health are all working together to slow the spread of this virus, Haefner said, “and we appreciate the community’s continued support of our efforts. It’s encouraging to see health care facilities in our region willing to work with us to protect our seniors and team members.”
As the situation evolves and more testing becomes increasingly available in Minnesota, Carris Health will continue to follow the priorities set from MDH as guidelines for testing, said Flowe. “Carris Health has increased collection capacity to test those in our community, including long-term care facilities, with signs and symptoms of COVID-19. This allows public health officials to identify, isolate and trace contacts for infected patients. We will continue to increase testing as guidelines evolve. Increased testing may result in increased confirmed cases which is attributed to the implementation of updated testing guidelines providing new information about existing conditions.”
Bethesda, a non-profit organization, provides a full continuum of senior care through housing and services, including independent living, assisted living and skilled nursing care at its facilities in Willmar and Olivia.