Some changes are afoot at Mayo Clinic Health System Waseca.

MCHS has added new health care providers to the Waseca team and has begun work on a $1.1 million upgrade to the building’s chilling system.

Two physicians, three nurse practitioners and one physician assistant have joined the primary care team at Mayo Clinic Health System-Waseca in the last two years, according to Dr. Martin Herrmann, medical director at the Waseca facility.

“We regained open access for same-day appointment scheduling and I think we’re well on our way to meeting the ‘ask’ of our community board members to improve access,” Herrmann said.

Mayo went through a process about three years ago to reevaluate how successful the Waseca hospital and clinic was at providing access to community care. The lack of access to primary care for the Waseca community was the top issue they heard about from the community board members and it was related to some staff departures at the time that shrunk the number of providers from eight to three, said Herrmann.

That led Mayo to initiate a recruitment strategy. In 2017, the facility went from three physicians staffing the primary care clinic and the in-patient service, as well as providing emergency department and urgent care backup. Now, there’s a team of nine, he said.

The Waseca location also supports the Janesville and Waterville clinics. One of the new advanced practice providers is taking over the Janesville practice and another provider has transitioned to support the Waterville practice, according to Mackenzie Miller, MCHS Waseca site administrator.

Herrmann noted that small communities across Minnesota and the country are in jeopardy of losing their primary care facilities.

“Our teams are committed to not only maintaining and growing the Waseca practice centrally, but then also maintaining our provider staff, our nursing staff and administrative staff in the two practices in our neighboring communities as well,” Herrmann said.

Infrastructure update

Work began on the new chilling system last week and cranes were on site removing the obsolete equipment Feb. 17.

“It’s a priority for us to invest in Waseca and to ensure that we continue to have a functioning and comfortable space for our patients,” Miller said.

Herrmann pointed out that the new system is a half-century commitment to the Waseca building.

Internal construction will take place over the next few weeks. The new chiller is expected to be in place by mid-March and it’ll go live in early April, Miller said.

“This will allow us to better care for and regulate the temperature in our building, specifically during the summer months, so that we can keep the hospital comfortable for those patients that are with us,” she said.

Some minor facility updates are also taking place, including updating the in-patient kitchen space and flooring on the main level, she said.

COVID-19 update

The state is doing well with COVID-19 cases currently and the COVID-19 hospitalization rate has dropped “dramatically” since November, Herrmann said.

Capacity at the hospital has varied throughout the pandemic and they’ve been moving patients between locations in southern Minnesota depending on capacity, Herrmann said. At one point during the surge in COVID-19 cases in late 2020, the Waseca location was at 100% capacity.

“At this point, we’re doing really well in terms of maintaining open access for both in-patient and clinic patients, but it’s been a struggle. There isn’t a hospital in Minnesota that hasn’t been under stress throughout 2020,” Herrmann said.

He added that at this point in the pandemic, they’re able to better manage the surge activity that happens. They have a better understanding of staffing needs so the facility can operate normally while simultaneously handling COVID-19 patients, especially compared to the beginning of the pandemic.

“We were in relative shutdown mode across the state of Minnesota and access was severely limited. Now we can handle the surge activity related to the pandemic, plus keep normal operations going, which is just a matter of experience, learning how to deal with the intricacies of a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic,” Herrmann said.

Reach Associate Editor Lisa Kaczke at 507-444-2371. ©Copyright 2021 APG Media of Southern Minnesota. All rights reserved.

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