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DCHS slashes size of hospital’s COVID wing

IRON MOUNTAIN — Dickinson County Healthcare System has reduced the size of its COVID-19 treatment area to four beds as it prepares to resume routine services suspended during the pandemic.

The hospital is in a re-entry phase, providing essential services, and plans to be “fully up and running” June 8, said Sue Hadley, DCHS director of nursing and a member of the hospital’s COVID-19 committee.

Nonessential surgeries have been banned for two months as part of virus controls ordered by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. Whitmer announced Thursday that ban will be lifted May 29.

“Testing is really the key to allow you to open up,” Hadley told the hospital board during a teleconference meeting Thursday. A sub-committee led by Meghan Rossato, director of operations, is helping steer decisions in consultation with surgeons, she said.

Officials hope that, within a couple weeks, at least some DCHS coronavirus test results may be obtained onsite, Hadley said. All patients now tested require a 48-hour wait from outside labs.

DCHS has conducted a total of 461 COVID-19 tests, with eight positive results, 417 negative, and 36 pending. Of the eight positive results, five were residents of other counties.

Two county residents have died from the virus, with the most recent death confirmed April 10. The patient had pre-existing medical issues compromised by COVID-19, DCHS said.

The reduction of the quarantined COVID-19 treatment area, which once had 22 beds, will allow for more surgeries, Hadley said.

The hospital may emerge from this phase of the pandemic “in better shape than going in,” CEO Chuck Nelson said.

DCHS has re-engaged with the community during the crisis and is ready to resume “more routine work that has stacked up,” he said. The news on physician recruitment continues to be encouraging, he added.

Joe Rizzo, director of public relations and business development, noted the hospital has received three major quality awards in recent months. Support from the community throughout the lockdown has been “very impressive,” he said.

County Commissioner Joe Stevens, a liaison to the hospital board, credited the health care community for a “phenomenal job” in keeping infection rates low. “We’ve all worked together, along with our citizens,” he said.

In other action, the board:

— Heard Rizzo report the hospital’s occupational clinic has helped provide screening services for Verso Corp.’s Quinnesec mill maintenance shutdown, which has drawn hundreds of visiting workers.

— Approved a strategic pricing plan prepared with the aid of consultants from Cleverley & Associates and Eide Bailly LLP.

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