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Worthington hospital ready for COVID-19, Weg says

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Sanford Worthington Medical Center

WORTHINGTON — While Nobles County had just one confirmed positive case of COVID-19 as of Friday, preparations are underway at Sanford Worthington Medical Center for a potential surge of patients needing treatment for the novel coronavirus.

Sanford Worthington Executive Director Jennifer Weg said Wednesday that the local hospital, along with all other Minnesota hospitals, was asked to assess expansion options and then plan accordingly approximately three weeks ago. An increased capacity plan has yet to be implemented, she added, as there’s currently not a patient need to do so.

“As part of the Southwest Minnesota Regional Health Care Coalition, all hospitals in our region have been working collaboratively on emergency preparedness for many years now,” Weg said. “None of us work alone.”

The State Health Care Coordination Center (SHCCC) has taken the lead in planning and implementing Minnesota’s COVID-19 response plan, Weg explained. The SHCCC falls directly under the Minnesota Department of Health, which is under the State Emergency Operations Center.

The Minnesota Hospital Association has a seat at the SHCCC, which Weg said provides daily updates to hospital leaders, including Sanford Worthington.


“The Minnesota COVID-19 health care response plan assumes that patients are best cared for in hospitals,” Weg said. “Expanding capacity within hospitals brings efficiency and proximity to equipment, supplies and staff.

“Once usual inpatient care spaces are exceeded, care may be extended to non-inpatient areas and then non-patient care areas as appropriate,” she continued. “Hospitals must plan appropriate locations, supplies and staffing across this range of contingencies. As critical care expands in the hospital, it will force more stable patients into these overflow areas.”

Sanford Worthington Medical Center is licensed as a 48-bed facility, though Weg indicated that licensure is not a determining statistic during the current pandemic.

“We are working diligently to plan the best location for patients who are ill with COVID-19, recovering from COVID-19, and those with routine medical and surgical needs,” she said. “This is where we are all working together as health systems, rural health networks and Minnesota hospitals. We are also working within our Sanford Health system and with our local partners to continuously evaluate our needs as the situation evolves, and as we plan for a surge in COVID-19 patients.”

Part of that planning for a surge, Weg added, is making sure there’s an ample supply of medical supplies and equipment in place.

“Following the governor’s executive order, there have been no elective procedures since March 23, so the gowns, gloves and masks typically used for surgery are now available for medical care elsewhere,” Weg said. “Sanford Health caregivers now must wear surgical face masks at all times while in clinic and hospital settings. Providers caring for presumed or known positive COVID-19 patients wear N95 respirators or PAPRs.”

Employees who do not have direct patient care assignments and are able to maintain distancing are also able to wear alternative masks while at work, stated Weg, in order to provide additional protection for both our staff and patients.The facility also has medical ventilators and associated medical equipment to care for the acute illness of patients.

Ill hospitalized patients are a priority for testing and Sanford Worthington has tested hospitalized patients for COVID-19 — with no positive results thus far.



Ryan McGaughey arrived in Worthington in April 2001 as sports editor of The Daily Globe, and first joined Forum Communications Co. upon his hiring as a sports reporter at The Dickinson (North Dakota) Press in November 1998. McGaughey became news editor in Worthington in November 2002 and editor in August 2006.
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