ST. CLOUD -- With an anticipated spike in COVID-19 related hospitalizations in the coming weeks, how is CentraCare planning for it?

Dr. George Morris says all of the most critically ill COVID-19 patients in central Minnesota will come to St. Cloud Hospital.

If we need to we will take our over 100 ventilators and apply them to 200 plus patients.  We're also prepared to shift that into, if necessary, above 300 and potentially 400.  But, for critical care beds, we will need to acquire more ventilators.

Morris says they can share the 100 ventilators they currently have on hand with two patients at a time, which is why he says they are prepared right now for about 200 patients.

So far St. Cloud Hospital has not treated any COVID-19 patients.

About a week ago Minnesota Governor Tim Walz announced that there were only about 250 Intensive Care Unit beds available in the whole state of Minnesota, a number that shocked most people. Morris says St. Cloud Hospital accounts for a little over three dozen of those.

In a normal day here we carry 28 ICU beds, we carry 14 cardiac ICU beds, so with that you'd say we have 42 ICU or critical care capable beds on a usual day.

They are working with all of the other healthcare systems in central Minnesota and he says they are prepared to shift resources, patients, and people with other communities such as Alexandria and Brainerd.

CEO and President Dr. Ken Holmen says they've had an incident command center set-up since January. CentraCare alone has clinics in 40 communities. He says the most critically ill will all come to St. Cloud.

It is, I think, unlikely that our regional hospitals will have an ICU COVID patient, I think that's highly unlikely because managing a very sick COVID patient is taxing no matter where you are whether you're in New York, or on a Navy hospital ship, or in St. Cloud.

Holmen says as more COVID-19 patients come to St. Cloud, other less sick patients would shift to other locations as need be. However, St. Cloud Hospital would still provide the high level care to all patients.

So our plan is focused on the roughly 715,000 Minnesotans in over 15 counties and over 50 communities.

Holmen says a large area of central Minnesota with COVID-19 will be served by St. Cloud Hospital.

So Monticello would be the southern area, we go almost all the way down to the South Dakota border and Iowa border, and then we go north to Fergus Falls, and to the east we go almost to Princeton.

Morris says they are using this time to retrain doctors and nurses so they are ready to care for patients in the Intensive Care Unit.

It's a time for our staff to hopefully have a little energizing and a little rest, and we are doing a great deal of training, you might say cross-training or up training for staff that at one point were used to caring for critical care level patients.

Morris says the modeling suggests a spike in ICU patients hitting Minnesota in late April or early May.

On any given day St. Cloud Hospital is the third or fourth busiest hospital in the state.

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