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Keeping Up With the Changes at Lakewood Health System

Governor Walz issued an executive order allowing elective surgical procedures to be performed effective May 11th. This order does not mean we will be rushing carelessly into doing surgeries at Lakewood Health System. The COVID-19 pandemic requires thoughtful planning to ensure patient and employee safety. It also requires us to have detailed plans in place if there are variations in the number of COVID-19 cases. Under the direction of Corrine Neisess, our vice president of nursing, we have put together a surgery and outpatient resumption team consisting of Corrine, anesthesia, our medical directors and surgery representatives. They have been meeting and communicating regularly to make sure everything is in place before proceeding. Throughout this whole crisis we have remained open and available to handle emergent surgical cases that arise. However, many elective cases had to be postponed starting in mid-March and are still waiting to be done. So, we now need to evaluate the urgency of each person’s situation to determine the order and timing of these surgeries.

The governor’s decision will be debated by some who will say it is too early. But in a crisis like this, there will always be differing opinions. From our standpoint, the decision by the governor in March to temporarily stop elective surgeries has given us time to obtain sufficient personal protective equipment. It has allowed us time to develop surge plans. It has improved testing capabilities as well as the validity and accuracy of the testing. It has allowed us to implement safety protocols, including employee and visitor screening. Basically, it has given us time to work everything out operationally, so we are prepared for whatever level of COVID hits and can start providing care again in the meantime. And we couldn’t have done it without you! The donations of masks and equipment you have provided have allowed us to be ready earlier than anticipated. Thank you.

The planning and decisions we are making are not just focused on today, this week or this month. The pandemic will change how healthcare – and many industries – operate permanently. We are thinking innovatively about the future and asking questions about what care practices should be in place going forward to be sure we are providing the safest care every time. Years ago, the term “universal precautions” (the use of protective supplies like gloves and gowns) didn’t even exist. But through research and time, these are now standards in healthcare, because they are proven to be a safer way to practice medicine; look how far we’ve come. Today is no different. We are making changes and decisions that will affect us well into the future.

This is much more than just doing surgeries again. It is about learning and changing how the health system works so you are ALWAYS safe. That has always been our goal and today is no different. So even though the executive order states we can start May 11th, we didn’t plan on having a significant increase in activity that week, by design. We will start when we are ready and know that we have it hardwired into our daily processes. I wish you could sit in on the meetings where this is all discussed. The passion and commitment these staff members and providers have for the community and patients is incredible.

Lakewood is not the only place I get to see that passion and dedication in action. I see these same qualities in area teachers, city workers, county government, business owners, the media – the list goes on and on. I know I missed some groups here, but the point is our area has a lot of special people who really care and make a difference every day. The communities that have these kinds of people who are there for each other in times of crisis are the communities that really stand out. It’s easy to be critical and get drawn into the things that are not perfect. But if we take a moment to look at the positive changes being made and focus on the real community heroes who are doing the work every day, our rural area has a lot to be proud of. Because you know we can count on each other.