CHI St. Alexius Hospital Devils Lake reaching capacity as COVID-19 cases climb in Ramsey County
Correction: An earlier version of this article listed the phone number and COVID-19 testing times for the Altru Clinic in Grand Forks and not Devils Lake. That information has since been corrected.
On Monday, North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum announced that COVID-19 hospitalizations around the state have taken a sharp rise, putting hospitals around the state at or near capacity.
CHI St. Alexius Health Devils Lake Hospital, the only hospital in Ramsey County, is nearing capacity according to CHI St. Alexius Health Devils Lake Hospital president Andrew Lankowicz. Cases in Ramsey County began to spike in mid-October and have now reached an all-time high on Nov. 10, as the North Dakota Department of Health reported 176 active cases in the county.
"We have not currently exceeded our bed cap, but we are evaluating throughout the day, every four hours," Lankowicz said. "One of the issues we're having are transfers out to the higher-level facilities. The situation here is pretty much the same across the state. We're doing whatever we can to keep our staff and our patients safe so we can take care of the community."
As Devils Lake nears its bed capacity, the hospitals that they transfer patients out to, who need more serious care, are also reaching capacity. The hospital is requesting more beds. Lankowicz said the space is available, but the staff may be stretched thin if more patients are admitted.
"We have a lot of space, but that is not the issue. The issue is the ability and the staff to care for the people," Lankowicz said. "Many COVID patients can recuperate at home and we encourage them to see their doctor at their clinic. If they need more definitive care, then will provide them with care and get them to the appropriate place they need to be."
The ratio of health professionals in facility and patients is not just an issue at Devils Lake, but around the state. This has led to an amended state health officer order to allow health professionals, who are COVID-19 positive and asymptomatic, to work in COVID-19 units of licensed health care units.
"This is something the CDC has allowed for a period of time," Burgum said in a press conference on Monday. "North Dakota's health orders were actually more restrictive than the CDC, so we're moving those in line with the CDC. This will free up some of that asymptomatic healthcare workers and have them go back to work in COVID units."
While there are only 411 hospitalizations around the state that have patients with COVID-19, 254 are hospitalized due to COVID-19, with 28 in the ICU. The majority of those hospitalized due to COVID-19 and have COVID-19 are over the age of 60 years old.
Another issue that the hospital has run into is in its ER unit and treating those not impacting by COVID-19. According to Lankowicz, high numbers of people are coming into the ER waiting to get tested or want a non-emergency appointment related to COVID-19.
"Many people who experience COVID-19 symptoms can recuperate, but if they are experiencing symptoms that are a threat to their life, they should call 911 or their physician," Lankowicz said. "We're trying to make sure we're not getting overrun by people who are a little bit scared of the symptoms they might be experiencing. We want to remain open for those experiencing non-COVID related issues that are coming in every day."
Non-referral, drive-through, and all patient COVID-19 testing can be done at the Altru Clinic, which is located right next to the hospital. An appointment must be made first and can be done by contacting the Coronavirus Screening Hotline at 701-662-2158. Tests are done Tuesday afternoons and Friday mornings. The clinic is open is open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.
The hospital has also encouraged the use of masks in public places and social distancing, along with supporting the mandates and resolutions put in place by the city of Devils Lake and Ramsey County. As numbers continue to climb in Ramsey County and around the state, the hospital has made plans if the hospital reaches capacity, which includes contingency hospitals at Lake Region State College for minimal care. One contingency hospital has already been demoed at the University of Mary in Bismarck.
Looking at their current situation now, St. Alexius Devils Lake wants to make those who might have family, friends, or loved ones in the hospital aware that there are now visitor restrictions. According to CHI St. Alexius Devils Lake's Facebook page, visitors are restricted to OB and pediatric patients are allowed one partner/caregiver, confused patients or patients at the end of life are allowed one visitor. Those who are fall into the restricted category, won't be allowed to roam around the hospital and must go directly to a family member's room. The policy is re-evaluated weekly.
Symptoms of COVID-19
Symptoms may appear 2-14 days after exposure to the virus. People with these symptoms may have COVID-19:Fever or chillsCoughShortness of breath or difficulty breathingFatigueMuscle or body achesHeadacheNew loss of taste or smellSore throatCongestion or runny noseNausea or vomitingDiarrheaLook for emergency warning signs for COVID-19. If someone is showing any of these signs, seek emergency medical care immediately:Trouble breathingPersistent pain or pressure in the chestNew confusionInability to wake or stay awakeBluish lips or faceSource: CDC.gov