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Facing loss of on-site doc, Kenyon council discusses future of healthcare in the community

Given last month’s announcement that Mayo Clinic Health System is closing its Blooming Prairie and Kenyon clinics at the end of 2020, Kenyon city leaders reached out to Mayo to discuss plans moving forward While Mayo representatives Jason Wray-Raabolle and Ilaya Hopkins opened the door to other healthcare options during the Nov. 10 Kenyon City Council work session, the council expressed concern over the loss of an on-site facility. The clinics, which were open one to two days per week, have been closed since the COVID-19 pandemic began in March, allowing staff to work at larger clinic locations to meet patient demand, according to the Mayo’s announcement in October. The two locations will likely not reopen before the clinics are permanently closed later this year when the leases for the two locations expire. Mayo said the closures are part of a system-wide review and it desires to continue serving rural Minnesota communities. Health care providers across the nation have suffered significant losses due to the pandemic. A large portion of surgeries and other medical procedures have been canceled since March and patients have been hesitant about in-person treatment. Two Fairview hospitals in St. Paul closed last month. Pandemic-induced losses couple with prior financial difficulties reportedly contributed to the closures. In September, city-owned Northfield Hospital revealed an $8 million revenue shortfall due the coronavirus. Looking towards the future After Mayo’s presentation on viable options — telemedicine, video visits, remote monitoring, advanced care at home, a mobile clinic and a community paramedic — the city can take part in, City Administrator Mark Vahlsing said there’s some good options that the community can look at in the future. He also said one of the city’s difficulties remains in the uncertainty of realistic steps Mayo will consider. Council member John Mortensen expressed concerns about telemedicine or video visits given the age of the community, saying a top priority should be focusing on how to provide all with computer access and technological capabilities. Youth volunteers could help those experiencing challenges with the technology could be utilized, said Council member Richard Nielsen. Or, he said, they could loan their personal laptop to the individual in need. Council member Tom Gard asked whether the building could remain open a couple days a week for video conferencing calls as opposed to bringing a mobile clinic to town. Mayor Doug Henke said the clinic has been slowly reducing services for three to four years, and questioned whether the clinic in Kenyon was profitable. “There are other providers out there, I’d like to you have a solid timeframe in what you’ll do, instead of the virtual reality. We have older people here and a lot have problems with computers, we have to have onsite people,” said Henke. “Come up with a plan by the first of the year with exactly what you’ll do, so we can look forward to working with you or getting out and looking elsewhere.” Wray-Raabolle, family medicine physician and primary care lead for Faribault and Owatonna, said a six-week timeframe would be challenging. “I would say we are happy to partner, and having a physical space that’s appropriate and efficient (and) that works is very much on the table,” said Wray-Raabolle. “I respect your comments, Mayor, and we are committed to working with the needs of Mayo Clinic Health System patients and will continue to do and very much respect your roles as community leaders in meeting community needs as well.” But he said, the status quo isn’t sustainable, though a combination of ideas could be possible. “We can mobilize with our teams and engage with individuals on what those spaces would look like,” he said. Keeping a presence in the community There are several issues with the current facility, including its size and number of staff available. Wray-Raabolle said another option on the table includes evaluating the size and cost of the space, along with figuring out how Mayo can provide staff to meet those needs. Vahlsing concluded the discussion saying that he still believes Kenyon can support a physical space, especially with its growing population. The physical location will be a big component of future discussions with Mayo representatives. Vahlsing said the city will also reach out to other health care providers like Northfield Hospital + Clinics with locations in Faribault and Northfield; Olmsted Medical Center in Wanamingo, Cannon Falls, Pine Island and Rochester, as well as Allina Health, with locations in Faribault, Northfield and Owatonna. Mayo Clinic continues to offer services at other locations that include Owatonna, Faribault, Austin, Cannon Falls and Zumbrota. “It’s obvious we have to realize it’s a difficult time to be talking about healthcare systems expanding with COVID-19, as many providers have temporarily closed locations,” Vahlsing said. “This may not happen immediately, as a physical presence is a work in progress and it’s a very difficult time for healthcare right now.”

Given last month’s announcement that Mayo Clinic Health System is closing its Blooming Prairie and Kenyon clinics at the end of 2020, Kenyon city leaders reached out to Mayo to discuss plans moving forward

While Mayo representatives Jason Wray-Raabolle and Ilaya Hopkins opened the door to other healthcare options during the Nov. 10 Kenyon City Council work session, the council expressed concern over the loss of an on-site facility.

The clinics, which were open one to two days per week, have been closed since the COVID-19 pandemic began in March, allowing staff to work at larger clinic locations to meet patient demand, according to the Mayo’s announcement in October.

The two locations will likely not reopen before the clinics are permanently closed later this year when the leases for the two locations expire. Mayo said the closures are part of a system-wide review and it desires to continue serving rural Minnesota communities.

Health care providers across the nation have suffered significant losses due to the pandemic. A large portion of surgeries and other medical procedures have been canceled since March and patients have been hesitant about in-person treatment.

Two Fairview hospitals in St. Paul closed last month. Pandemic-induced losses couple with prior financial difficulties reportedly contributed to the closures.

In September, city-owned Northfield Hospital revealed an $8 million revenue shortfall due the coronavirus.

Looking toward the future

After Mayo’s presentation on viable options — telemedicine, video visits, remote monitoring, advanced care at home, a mobile clinic and a community paramedic — the city can take part in, City Administrator Mark Vahlsing said there’s some good options that the community can look at in the future. He also said one of the city’s difficulties remains in the uncertainty of realistic steps Mayo will consider.

Council member John Mortensen expressed concerns about telemedicine or video visits given the age of the community, saying a top priority should be focusing on how to provide all with computer access and technological capabilities.

Youth volunteers could help those experiencing challenges with the technology could be utilized, said Council member Richard Nielsen. Or, he said, they could loan their personal laptop to the individual in need.

Council member Tom Gard asked whether the building could remain open a couple days a week for video conferencing calls as opposed to bringing a mobile clinic to town.

Mayor Doug Henke said the clinic has been slowly reducing services for three to four years, and questioned whether the clinic in Kenyon was profitable.

“There are other providers out there, I’d like to you have a solid timeframe in what you’ll do, instead of the virtual reality. We have older people here and a lot have problems with computers, we have to have onsite people,” said Henke. “Come up with a plan by the first of the year with exactly what you’ll do, so we can look forward to working with you or getting out and looking elsewhere.”

Wray-Raabolle, family medicine physician and primary care lead for Faribault and Owatonna, said a six-week timeframe would be challenging.

“I would say we are happy to partner, and having a physical space that’s appropriate and efficient (and) that works is very much on the table,” said Wray-Raabolle. “I respect your comments, Mayor, and we are committed to working with the needs of Mayo Clinic Health System patients and will continue to do and very much respect your roles as community leaders in meeting community needs as well.”

But he said, the status quo isn’t sustainable, though a combination of ideas could be possible.

“We can mobilize with our teams and engage with individuals on what those spaces would look like,” he said.

Keeping a presence in the community

There are several issues with the current facility, including its size and number of staff available. Wray-Raabolle said another option on the table includes evaluating the size and cost of the space, along with figuring out how Mayo can provide staff to meet those needs.

Vahlsing concluded the discussion saying that he still believes Kenyon can support a physical space, especially with its growing population. The physical location will be a big component of future discussions with Mayo representatives. Vahlsing said the city will also reach out to other health care providers like Northfield Hospital + Clinics with locations in Faribault and Northfield; Olmsted Medical Center in Wanamingo, Cannon Falls, Pine Island and Rochester, as well as Allina Health, with locations in Faribault, Northfield and Owatonna. Mayo Clinic continues to offer services at other locations that include Owatonna, Faribault, Austin, Cannon Falls and Zumbrota.

“It’s obvious we have to realize it’s a difficult time to be talking about healthcare systems expanding with COVID-19, as many providers have temporarily closed locations,” Vahlsing said. “This may not happen immediately, as a physical presence is a work in progress and it’s a very difficult time for healthcare right now.”


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Friends, family to remember late business owner with 5K, but in May
  • Updated

When Tina Leininger thinks of her friend Katie Peterson, founder and operator of Personal Training with KT, she thinks of Peterson’s dedication to family, friends, education and businesses comes to mind.

Peterson, who expanded her business to three locations in Rochester, and known to Kenyon and Wanamingo as Workout 27, died unexpectedly in her home Nov. 18, 2019. She was 38. With the one-year anniversary of Peterson’s death in mind, Leininger set out to organize an event to honor Peterson’s memory, while allowing all to come together as friends and family. Leininger thought there would be no better way to do so other than to host a memorial 5K.

The race was scheduled for Nov. 21, but due to the uptick in COVID-19 cases in Goodhue and Olmsted counties, a decision was made to postpone the event until Peterson’s birth month next May.

“After much discussion and deliberation, Corey [Katie’s husband] and I have decided to postpone the 5K,” wrote Leininger Wednesday in Workout 27’s Facebook page. “With the recent surge of COVID-19 cases in Goodhue and Olmsted counties, we feel that now is not a good time for a large group gathering, even if we are outside.”

Leininger expressed gratitude toward all 100 participants already registered for the race, and raising more than $4,000.

“I first want to thank everyone for registering for the Memorial 5K and also for your generous donations to [Katie’s family] Corey, Gracie and Gavin,” said Leininger. “Your support is greatly appreciated and does not go unnoticed.”

Those who ordered T-shirts will receive them in the spring, and others interested to register for May’s 5K can do so now. The good news for those already registered, Leininger said, is that all they need to do is show up in May and celebrate Peterson.

A ‘Katie-approved activity’

Peterson founded Personal Training with KT in 2006 with the motto “No Problems, Only Solutions.” Over 13 years, she expanded to three locations and became certified as a natural health practitioner and NETA personal trainer, and trained and coached hundreds of clients on nutrition and fitness.

“I don’t even know how you can sum this up,” said Leininger. “She was one of the most dedicated people I know. She gave it her all. She had so much energy, was generous and funny … if you were around her, you knew it was going to be fun. She had the best laugh, her laugh was the absolute best, I miss that so much.”

Leininger, who would have worked for Peterson for five years this October, is the current fitness manager of both Workout 27 gyms in Kenyon and Wanamingo and also provides personal training services. She met Peterson while in the midst of receiving her certification, and Leininger says the duo hit it off. Once Leininger received her certification, she began working for Peterson.

“I wanted to do something around [the anniversary of Peterson’s death] to honor her, for us to come together as friends and family and be there for each other,” added Leininger.

Between coping with the loss of her friend and unprecedented challenges created by the pandemic, Leininger said though it’s been a lot to take in, they’ve made it and the businesses are doing “great.”

Given Peterson’s extensive background and education in exercise science and health, Leininger said this type of event would “absolutely” honor Peterson’s memory well. In the Eventbrite management and ticketing website, Leininger includes the 5K is a “Katie-approved activity.”

Leininger hopes the 5K will be a good time for all participants to celebrate, share stories and come together. COVID-19 precautions such as social distancing, mask wearing and separating the participants in different groups are planned to be taken.

Leininger said she would like to make this an annual event.

“It’s a great way for us to come together and celebrate her life and share her stories,” said Leininger. “We all miss her so much.”


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K-W Schools shift learning models as Goodhue County cases increase
  • Updated

Boysen

As a result of an increase in Goodhue County’s 14-day case rate per 10,000 residents from 19 to 34, Kenyon-Wanamingo Schools made some shifts in its learning models for all students.

In a Nov. 5 update to parents and guardians, K-W Superintendent Bryan Boysen said as numbers in the county continue to climb, the district would be switching to a phase 4 learning model, which began last week.

“We want to value the relationships you have with your classroom teachers and the best way to accomplish this is by using the hybrid model of group A and B days,” said Boysen. “We have experienced an increase in staff and students absent from school because of close contact and positive cases. In the past two weeks, we have experienced five positive cases.”

Phase 4 indicates hybrid learning for prekindergarten through sixth grade and distance learning for seventh through 12th grades. Wednesday was a distance learning day for K-12 and in-person for preschool, while elementary and middle school students begin their first day of hybrid learning (a mix of in-person and distance learning days) Thursday as high school students remain in distance learning. Since the beginning of the school year, the district has been operating in a phase 2 learning model where pre-K to sixth graders learned in-person, and seven through 12th graders learned in a hybrid model.

High School Principal Matt Ryan said in a letter to parents and students that Goodhue County Public Health was predicting the 14-day case rate per 10,000 residents would increase again last Thursday.

“We have been impacted in the middle/high school with an increasing number of students and staff who have had positive tests or have needed to be quarantined due to being a close contact,” Ryan wrote. “This has put a significant strain on classroom coverage and supervision especially due to the challenges of getting substitute teachers.”

The 14-day case rate per 10,000 residents number is now at 65 and is also expected to continue increasing.

In an update to the K-W community Friday, Nov. 13, Boysen clarified decision making in changing learning models and other alterations to school activities.

“These decisions are made with careful analysis of local school community metrics, county COVID-19 case rate number, and MDE recommendations,” said Boysen. “We as a school district do have some autonomy in making our local decision based on all of the above information while being guided with recommendations. The recommendations from MDE are just that, recommendations.”

He said the district’s goal is to remain in the phase 4 learning model with activities through Nov. 24. Through a continuation of monitoring data daily, Boysen said the district is planning to move to a phase 5 learning model for K-12 beginning Nov. 30.

“This means all students will be in a distance learning model. Grades 7-12 will continue with the distance learning plan they are currently working in,” said Boysen. “What this looks like for K-6 students will vary by grade level and further details will be sent to…your student’s teacher by Thanksgiving break. You have the choice to move your student to flex learning prior to the 30th if this is the right choice for you.”

As a result of multiple students asking if the district will be in distance learning for the rest of the year, Ryan said, “I of course don’t know that answer for sure, but no, I don’t think we will be doing distance learning for the rest of the school year and I’m hopeful we can return to a hybrid model or in-person model as soon as the COVID data allows that to happen in a safe way!”

Regionally, Faribault Public Schools announced Wednesday, Nov. 11 a shift to distance learning starting Nov. 19 and lasting until at least Jan 4.