October 25, 2022 at 4:14 p.m.
One Monday in late August was one of the busiest days at CentraCare-Melrose Hospital since the height of COVID-19.
Emergency room trauma bays were full and all three ambulances were out on calls. The waiting room was full of patients.
“It took several of us to care for critical patients, and instead of asking they just jumped in. The imaging tech was a recorder during a stroke code, and the lab manager was moving patients and cleaning rooms so we could get more patients back,” Wendy Middendorf, acute care nurse manager, said Sept. 15. “I realized what an awesome team we have here, and the culture that we have each other’s backs and we can get through anything.”
“It’s not abnormal to have someone come down and say, ‘Do you need help?’” Dr. Lindsey Chmielewski said. “That’s speaks to our medical staff and how we work together.”
The new layout of the hospital had a hand in it, Middendorf and Chmielewski agreed as they talked about the five years since the new 55,000-square-foot hospital opened Aug. 29, 2017, replacing an aging 59-year-old hospital. In her eighth year at the Melrose facility and taking the physician lead role in 2019, Chmielewski was among many employees involved in planning of the new hospital.
Over those five years, there has been a 61% increase in emergency rooms visits and outpatient visits have jumped 51%. Surgeries have increased 8.6%, there have been 71% more lab tests and radiology procedures increased 28%.
Chmielewski said the new facility allows medical staff to visually see what is happening and creates better flow, especially in the ER.
“We have universal rooms which are utilized when volumes are higher,” she said. “These are flexible spaces for procedure preparation, chemotherapy, infusions and ER overflow.”
The hospital has two negative pressure rooms, with different airflow systems, that help prevent the spread of droplets, which became very important for isolation of COVID-19 patients.
“During COVID we preferentially used those rooms for patients,” Middendorf said. “Some other hospitals in our region didn’t have that.”
Middendorf, who has been a registered nurse 25 years, the last three in Melrose, said she has heard nurses talk about the spaciousness of the birthing suites.
Chmielewski, one of the physicians providing obstetrical care, appreciates this especially during an emergency. The rooms are cordoned off for safety reasons. Patients also comment on the space and natural light of the inpatient rooms compared to other hospitals.
The meditation room, with windows showcasing outdoor gardens, is appreciated, Middendorf said.
“Families can go there and regroup and go back in and visit their loved one,” she said.
It is a safe place for care conferences and for physicians to meet with families.
Also new is an in-house MRI, which allows medical staff to provide this service daily.
“With MRI imaging, we are able to keep stroke patients here who otherwise would have required transfer for imaging and specialty care,” Chmielewski said. “We are expanding our telehealth services. We’ve done telestroke and now offer infectious disease, nephrology and soon to come is cardiology.”
Newer technology allows staff to collaborate with medical colleagues at other facilities.
“We have developed relationships with CentraCare specialists, critical care staff and respiratory therapists to provide the best care we can with local resources,” Chmielewski said. “Patients and families appreciate the care close to home.”
A new hospital and the added amenities would not have been possible without community support, Chmielewski said. That support is something she saw when she first came to Melrose 13 years ago as a medical student.
“There was talk back then about a new hospital and it came to fruition. The community should be so proud of this accomplishment, and because of the dedicated staff and new services, people outside of Melrose are seeking their care here,” she said. “That is evident by the increasing numbers.”
Numbers that continue to grow thanks to CentraCare’s commitment to health care and dedicated employees who step in when and where they are needed.