The week of May 11, St. Gabriel’s Hospital resumed elective surgeries after Gov. Tim Walz lifted the seven-week ban that was placed in order to preserve vital masks and gowns for COVID-19 medical efforts.

Steven Smith, the hospital’s president, said “Things are going very well” with reimplementing surgeries and that the hospital has safety protocols in place.

“Extensive planning has been put in place to ensure that patient safety and quality of care will be at the highest levels, as has always been our standard,” he said.

Some surgical staff who were previously working in other areas have been able to return to the operating room to care for patients needing surgery.

CHI St. Gabriel’s also moved to open the Family Medical Center in Little Falls to see patients for annual exams and chronic disease management that were previously postponed, however telehealth visits will still be available.

The clinic will also be able to have in-person visits with those patients feeling ill who, before the lift on restrictions, were only able to be seen via telehealth or through the emergency room.

When scheduling an appointment at the Family Medical Center, patients will be asked to wear a face covering when entering the building and to their appointment, Smith said. He hopes clinics in Pierz and Randall will be able to open for the same services soon.

The hospital has previously been able to test 15 patients per day and has recently implemented curbside testing for the virus, but patients still need a provider to order the test. Those with symptoms and those who are non-symptomatic but scheduled for surgery are being tested as well.

“Patients have been coming in and, of course, we are doing everything that we can to ensure that our hospital and clinics are a safe place to come for your health care needs,” Smith said.

In his most recent COVID-19 update, Wednesday, Walz said that Minnesota is facing several challenges when it comes to personal protective equipment (PPE), including masks and gowns and that allowing elective surgeries has impacted the supply of such equipment.

According to Walz, a shipment of gowns was on its way to the state but redirected to an unknown source by the federal government and that each state is fighting for PPE supplies.

“With regards to masks, staff has received training and education how to properly wear and care for their masks in order to extend their use ... We have the ability to reprocess or clean certain types of masks in order to extend the use as well,” Smith said.

Masks at St. Gabriel’s Hospital are generally used for an entire shift but can be changed if necessary, the president said. The hospital has not needed to request or use any supplies from the state reserves.

Walz stressed his concern over protective gear for medical workers and said that additional strain on PPE supplies comes from people who choose not to practice social distancing or wear a face covering in public.

As of May 21, the Minnesota Department of Health reported 32 positive COVID-19 cases in Morrison County, one needing hospitalization. It is unknown how many of the cases have recovered at this time.

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