Sleepy Eye Medical Center is working closely with state, government and local health officials to protect staff, patients and the community from COVID-19. In turn, SEMC urges the community to make healthy choices and practice social distancing to help break the chain of transmission.
“We are constantly monitoring this situation and working with healthcare and government officials to stay informed, prepared and provide the best possible care to patients—even with modifications to our normal operations. We all need to adhere to the recommendations coming from our government leaders in order to keep our community, patients, staff and loved ones safe,” said Kevin Sellheim, SEMC Administrator.
COVID-19 is a viral respiratory illness caused by the coronavirus that has not been found in people before. Symptoms of the virus include fever, cough and shortness of breath. Any possible exposures as well as travel within the last month domestically or internationally—especially to South Korea, Japan, China, Italy, Iran or the continent of Europe—should be considered. Infected individuals may not experience symptoms but can still spread the illness.
First and foremost, SEMC encourages any patients who have COVID-19 symptoms or suspect exposure to call ahead before seeking care at a healthcare facility. This also provides staff the opportunity to adequately prepare for your arrival while ensuring the safety of healthcare workers and other patients within the building.
“We are working to establish a screening hotline and will share that number with the public once it is ready. For the meantime, patients with symptoms or exposure can call us at 507-794-3691,” said Lori Neidecker, RN, Infection Preventionist and Emergency Preparedness Coordinator at SEMC.
If you are sick with COVID-19 or suspect you could be infected or previously exposed, SEMC recommends strict adherence to the following steps to help prevent transmission:
- Call ahead before visiting your medical provider. Your provider will work with you to determine whether or not you should be screened for COVID-19.
- Stay home, except to get emergent medical care.
- Separate yourself from other people and animals in your home.
- Have any housemates limit contact with others.
- Have the same support person (friend or family member) deliver supplies, groceries, etc. in an effort to limit those who come in contact with you.
- Cover your coughs and sneezes. Throw away used tissues immediately.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol if soap and water are not readily available.
- Avoid sharing personal household items.
- Clean all “high-touch” surfaces every day with disinfectant.
- Monitor your symptoms and follow any instruction from your provider and/or health care officials.
“We’ve implemented a number of additional precautionary measures to keep our patients, staff and community safe. These include visitor restrictions, event cancellations and possible rescheduling of elective surgical procedures or non-essential visits,” said Neidecker.
Neidecker explained that visitors are no longer allowed within the Sleepy Eye Hospital and Clinic—while Comfrey and Morgan Clinics are closed indefinitely. Those impacted by the new visitor policy include friends and family of patients, students, volunteers and non-essential vendors. However, exceptions may be made for patients under certain circumstances.
In the coming days and weeks, some elective surgical procedures and non-essential visits may be rescheduled. If patients have concerns about an upcoming appointment or aren’t sure if they should visit, SEMC asks that they call the clinic for further direction. Morning appointments are currently designated for well people and high risk patients, including older adults and people with serious chronic medical conditions. Patients in need of medication refills should contact their pharmacy to verify medication status; an appointment may not be necessary for medication refill.
To protect oneself and others, SEMC encourages the public to practice good hygiene habits, follow social distancing recommendations, limit unnecessary travel, disinfect frequently touched surfaces daily, and stay home when sick. Individuals who are at high risk of getting very sick from COVID-19, including older adults and people with serious chronic medical conditions, should be especially cautious during this time and stay home as much as possible.
“These are unprecedented times. Let’s all practice what is advised by the experts, stick together, support each other and we will all emerge from this stronger than before,” said Dr. Harman Dhaliwal, SEMC.
Finally, SEMC encourages the community to refer to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention and Minnesota Department of Health websites for accurate and current information on COVID-19 as recommendations and the situation, itself, are ever-changing: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-nCoV/index.html and https://www.health.state.mn.us/diseases/coronavirus/index.html. In addition, the community can download and utilize psychological first aid resources and support on these sites.