Staffing shortages caused by COVID-19 outbreaks at two nursing homes in Minnesota have resulted in the unprecedented measure of calling in the National Guard to assist with resident care needs.
As of Oct. 13, five members of the Minnesota National Guard – one nurse and four medical technicians – are assisting with a staffing shortage at Sacred Heart Care Center in Austin, which has had 10 residents and seven staff at its Skilled Nursing Facility test positive for COVID-19.
"The residents who tested positive for Covid-19 are isolated from the rest of our community and being treated by a designated staff team," reads an update on the nursing home's website. "The staff who have tested positive are quarantined at home and will not be allowed to return to work until they have recovered and passed our return-to-work protocols."
The National Guard medical experts will remain for up to two weeks if necessary. They were called in as emergency staffing despite the facility receiving temporary assistance locally from Mayo Clinic and Mower County Public Health officials.
Visitors are not allowed at Sacred Heart Care Center unless a resident's health is declining, so contact with the outside world is being conducted through online video chats, and even family members "coming to their loved one’s window to see them/talk," the website update said.
The coronavirus has hit residents of long-term care facilities very hard in Minnesota, as they account for 1,522 of the state's 2,151 confirmed COVID-19 deaths.
In Hibbing, the Guardian Angels Health and Rehabilitation Center has been hit hard over the past eight months as 38 residents and 27 staff members have tested positive for COVID-19, with nine residents passing away after testing positive.
Four trained medical experts from the National Guard were sent to the nursing home to provide staffing relief between Oct. 3-11 to assist with resident care. According to the Star Tribune, which cites the state health department, the situation in Hibbing has stabilized and the National Guard members have left.
According to the Department of Health, there are currently (as of last Friday) 340 congregate care facilities in Minnesota that have had at least one exposure to a resident, staff or visiting provider. Facilities are removed from the list once there have been no exposures to confirmed COVID-19 persons for a minimum of 28 days.