To the Editor:
The COVID-19 pandemic has been a challenge to us all. Many people both public and private have scrambled to make changes to adapt to the new reality. It has been great to see how successful we have been in adapting and overcoming the challenges we are facing, but our elder care and senior housing facilities are in real trouble.
The Minnesota Department of Health has encouraged discharging recovering, but still potentially contagious patients, into these facilities. Our state’s own records show that 27% of COVID-19 patients are discharged into this type of facility. Reports both public and private have been for some time now that this is truly our “front line” against this virus. Over 80% of deaths in Minnesota have come out of these facilities, the highest in the nation. Reports I have received are that we are losing the battle on this front line. I have been contacted directly and told that staff is in short supply, along with personal protection equipment, among other problems. Facilities are having a hard time hiring to fill the need.
I’m writing today in hopes our state government will answer the call to our front line. Considering the colossal cost of measures imposed thus far, I feel it is long overdue that the state significantly up their response to this well established front line. This means working with unions and facilities to make it easier for furloughed healthcare workers to work at these facilities without losing income or benefits, streamlining training and licensing requirements, helping facilities acquire PPE, and solving other problems.
These facilities don’t need to just “get by.” It is time to use overwhelming force against this virus in elder care facilities. I’m calling on our Governor, the Legislature, and the Department of Health to pivot, and focus on the new front line. We thought our front line was going to be hospitals, but the enemy had a different plan and attacked us elsewhere. We must fight the enemy where it appears. Please Minnesota, respond to this area of critical need before it is too late.
Nick Roehl is the Ward 2 Plymouth City Council member.