In an effort to offer relief to hospitals in central and northern Minnesota feeling strained from recent surges in COVID-19 patients, the Good Samaritan Society — Bethany, in Brainerd, will serve as an alternative-care site. This will be the second alternative-care site open in Minnesota.

On Wednesday the site had an emergency staffing team of 14 Minnesota National Guard members and nine federal nurses to care for patients who no longer require acute emergency care, but are not yet able to return home, such as individuals recovering from surgery.

Thirty-four beds will be available for patients from area hospitals. Lake Region Healthcare in Fergus Falls will have access to one bed at the facility.

Roberta Young, the chief nursing officer at Lake Region Healthcare said this location is designed to help hospitals decompress by discharging patients who require continued care but not in a hospital setting. Most patients at the site will, ideally, be there for a short period of time.

”It will be helpful, but it also requires good coordination of care with the family to have a patient transition a bit farther away than they normally would,” said Young.

“The availability of beds for patients that need to be in the hospital is very tight here, as it is in the state as a whole and in our surrounding states,” she explained. “The reasons are really three-fold. First, there is an increase in patients needing hospital care for COVID. Second, people in general have unfortunately been delaying health care so we are seeing more very sick people with a variety of health problems that have developed to the point of needing hospital care. And third, hospitals have less beds available due to nursing and other staff shortages. We are working closely with our state and other health care systems to make sure families get the best care in the best place.”

Many patients who will benefit from the site would normally be transferred to a long-term care facility where they would continue their recovery, but staffing shortages and bed shortages have reduced capacity at long-term care sites as well. Access to the alternate care site will allow hospitals to focus on treating patients with COVID-19 and other patients requiring emergency care.

“As Minnesota doctors and nurses care for more COVID-19 patients, we’re calling in reinforcements,” stated Gov. Tim Walz in a Wednesday press release. “Our new alternative care sites will treat Minnesotans on the road to recovery so our hospitals can focus on providing care for our most critical patients, including those sick with COVID-19. We’re forging a coalition to assist our hospitals. By working with our partners at long-term care facilities, the federal government, and the National Guard, we’re helping make sure we have the capacity to care for those who need it.”

Nate Schema, vice president of operations at Good Samaritan Society said that he appreciated the opportunity to work with the state and with hospital partners to meet the needs of patients. “The available capacity at Good Samaritan Society — Bethany in Brainerd allows us to serve more people in need of post-acute care and services and will provide our hospital partners with additional flexibility as they continue to serve the community,” he said in a release. “I remain deeply grateful to our staff who continue to go above and beyond to take care of those who need them the most.”

Currently, the program is planned to be staffed through the end of December 2021.

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