It is hard to believe that seven months have passed since we began to monitor, manage and deal with the COVID-19 global pandemic. There has been much preparation during this crisis, and it has undoubtedly impacted our communities in many ways.
At Tri-County Health Care, we are proud of our response to help ease the stress of our patients, staff, providers and communities. When I think back to the early stages of the disease, we began monitoring its potential implications as it arrived in the country.
At the time, it was difficult to believe it could have such an impact in the Midwest, Minnesota or our small corner of the world. While the coronavirus had not reached our area, we knew it was time to mobilize our emergency management system in early March to ensure preparation in case it did.
Tri-County Health Care has several types of preparation plans and practices executing them through periodic drills and exercises. In the end, that preparation was a great value as the COVID-19 situation reached our state and region just two weeks later. Soon after that, mandates from state and federal governments led to us enact extreme preservation actions for personal protective equipment (PPE).
We then began to shut down most of our services at Tri-County Health Care by March 20.
This shutdown was a situation Tri-County Health Care, like other health care systems around the country, had not seen before. It had a significant impact on our patients, staff, providers and community.
For Tri-County Health Care, it forced a very unique and significant change – the suspension and delay of the building project we had worked on for the past three years.
We knew three things. First, the emergency was something we were going to have to focus all of our energy on. We could not let the building project distract us from the mission-critical activities of our COVID-19 preparation and response. Secondly, we now faced a very uncertain financial future as the shutdown reduced our revenues by as much as 60-70 percent for an unforeseeable length of time.
Finally, the overnight financial markets became extremely uncertain for financial institutions working with us on the project. As we continued with our COVID-19 preparations, we watched what was happening around the state, country and world, and it became evident that this was a serious situation. The pandemic led to concern and uncertainty for our communities and caused a general sense of fear surrounding the disease.
For Tri-County Health Care, it meant shifting how we care for our patients and communities. We completely changed traffic patterns for staff and patients and established new policies and workflows to ensure the safety of our patients, families and staff. Our mission changed from our commitment to improving the health of the communities we serve to being a safeguard to our communities.
Despite the significant stress and anxiety for our staff, we pushed through and progressed into May, where there was a sense we had turned the corner. Our community met the challenge, and the disease had a low impact on our region. With that, the last three months have allowed us to reopen services slowly. I am proud to say we have now completely remobilized all our services at Tri-County Health Care.
We still have many months to manage through this situation, but I am proud of our staff, providers, communities, families and state partners for the work they have done. We are proud of the efforts we have taken to help protect our communities. These efforts include our community masking initiative, the assistance provided to area businesses, and our partnerships with area schools to help them restart in March and now again this fall.
The pandemic has also led to a display of community spirit in small-town Minnesota. We have had dozens of volunteers help us by sewing masks and gowns. Area businesses have re-tooled their manufacturing programs to help develop alternative PPE. Finally, donations and dollars have helped assist Tri-County Health Care in our efforts.
We will continue our diligence to meet our mission of safeguarding the health of the communities we serve. Our goal is to do everything in our power to continue to be a positive influence within the Tri-County Health Care region. I am confident that with our dedicated staff and the great people in the communities we serve, we will continue to meet the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. We will overcome it, stronger and together.
Joel Beiswenger is the president and CEO of Tri-County Health Care.