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Fairview’s Northland Medical Center has officially requested Princeton allocate some of its federal funding to help offset non-reimbursable costs the hospital has or will incur in response to COVID-19.

Dr. Greg Schoen, Fairview’s vice president, medical affairs, made the request in a July 17 letter to City Administrator Robert Barbian.

The letter was presented as an agenda item by Barbian at the Princeton City Council’s July 23 regular meeting.

“The extraordinary actions that we took at Northland in response to COVID-19 were critical to our ability to serve our community,” Schoen’s letter stated.

They were also costly, Schoen added. COVID-specific actions have placed an extraordinary financial burden on the hospital that will not be covered by insurance reimbursements, the State of Minnesota, or the federal government.

“We respectfully request that Princeton consider allocating from the $358,243 that you received,” Schoen wrote, referring to the city’s CARES Act funding.

Schoen reported that Northland Medical Center is in the process of finalizing its costs and cost estimates and will have a specific request in the next few weeks.

Northland is a full-service, 24-hour medical center. Since 1993, it has served the area with staff specializing in heart care, cancer care, trauma, and surgery.

“The non-reimbursable costs that we are asking for will represent the Princeton proportional share within our service area. We are making similar requests of neighboring municipalities,” Schoen’s stated in his letter, which also included a detailed summary of operational actions that were taken at the medical center when it became clear the community needed to prepare for COVID-19.

Fairview dramatically altered almost every aspect of its operations, Schoen reported. This included halting non-time sensitive surgeries and medical visits; training staff to safely care for infected patients; ensuring an adequate supply of personal protective equipment, ventilators, medicines and supplies; investing in and rapidly accelerating a move to telehealth technology to serve patients.

Physical facility changes included modifying ventilation systems to create negative pressure airflow rooms; increasing infection prevention measures and cleaning within the hospital; deploying new capabilities including drive-up testing; converting seven additional rooms to serve as Intensive Care Units (ICU) to provide the hospital with additional surge capacity for the sickest patients; and creating and executing extensive facility plans to handle the surge of COVID-19 patients needing emergency room and inpatient care during the pandemic.

“We also had to close our local infusion center to repurpose that space as designated ICU/negative airflow rooms to have capacity to manage a surge locally; this created a burden for those patients needing this type of care to have to drive to Maple Grove,” Schoen’s letter stated.

Princeton city staff and supervisors are reviewing what capabilities are available to utilize the CARES Act funding resources that have been allocated to the city,” Barbian told the council, adding the city has received a number of inquires.

“We are sorting through which ones can be done and what the best recommendations would be for the city council. We hope to have better information in about a month,” Barbian reported during the July 23 meeting.

In late June Gov. Tim Walz approved plans to distribute $841 million in federal coronavirus aid to cities and counties across Minnesota.

The money comes from the $2.1 billion that Minnesota received under a sweeping federal economic rescue law known as the CARES Act.

The state is distributing the $841 million to local governments according to a set of population-based formulas.

Communities can’t use the money simply to replace lost revenue, but they can use it to fill the holes in their budgets caused by unexpected spending arising from the pandemic.

The CARES Act requires payments may only be used to cover costs that are necessary expenditures incurred due to the public health emergency, were not accounted for in the budget most recently approved for the state or local government, and were incurred during the period that begins March 1, 2020, and ends on Dec. 30, 2020.

Any remaining unspent funding must be returned to the state by Dec. 10, 2020, and the state must recoup money if local governments are found to have spent the aid improperly.

Local governments are receiving a direct payment based on the per capita formula developed by the state legislature during special session.

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