BEMIDJI -- Despite social distancing and strict visitor rules, Sanford Health of Northern Minnesota still wants those with important care needs to reach out and receive treatment.

Dr. Colleen Swank, Sanford vice president of clinics and pediatrician, said even with the coronavirus pandemic taking place, the health care provider is still allowing person-to-person visits where possible.

"What we're doing for those patients who have to, or choose to be seen in person, we're making sure they have a safe environment to come to," Swank said. "Also, for those who maybe don't need to be seen in person, we have video and phone visits available to them. That's for multiple specialties. So, for things like primary care, family medicine, internal medicine, cardiology and orthopedics. We know things like diabetes and hypertension don't go away, so we'll continue to take care of them."

According to Dr. Jill Olson, who works in family medicine at Sanford, the staff is working to come up with different types of visits for patients.

"We certainly have the in-office visit, and we've made changes at our clinics so that they're safer. We're taking extra measures," Olson said. "Patients should continue to seek care, whether they think they have symptoms or if they need to get their blood pressure checked. We're still here. Reach out to us, we'll figure out how we can treat you."

For those wanting to come in, Swank said it's important to call in first and talk to their primary provider.

"We'll set up safe spaces for them to come in and get that care," Swank said. "We're willing to work with them in different ways, and our No. 1 priority is getting them care."

While patients are still being treated for other issues aside from COVID-19, though, Sanford is maintaining strict visitor guidelines. On March 27, Sanford announced visitors would no longer be allowed into the hospital, with just a few exceptions.

Those include:

  • A predetermined visitor allowed daily for births, neonatal intensive care unit treatment and pediatrics.
  • For end-of-life care, Sanford is determining visits on a case-by-case basis.
  • In the case of end-of-life care for a COVID-19 patient, one predetermined visitor is allowed daily. The visitor would have to follow protective measures, including wearing a mask and self quarantining for 14 days following the visit.
  • Patients going to the clinic or to an outpatient appointment are not allowed to bring a guest unless the patient is a minor or an adult in need of assistance.

While there are four positive cases in Beltrami County, though, Swank said there are no patients in the Sanford Bemidji hospital with COVID-19.

In total, as of Friday, there were 789 positive cases in the state with 24,227 tests conducted, according to the Minnesota Department of Health. MDH notes that 156 have needed hospitalization, 40 are in intensive care, and 22 have died. MDH also notes that 410 patients are no longer in isolation.

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