October 2020, Volume XXXIV, Number 7

  CAPSULES

North Memorial Leads Staff Flu Vaccine Initiative

Minnesota was 44th out of 50 states in the rate of healthcare workers vaccinated against influenza, according to the most recent CDC data for the 2018-2019 flu season. While Minnesota often thinks of itself as a leader in healthcare due to the high-quality clinical care and cutting-edge treatments available in our state, when it comes to healthcare worker vaccinations, Minnesota is far from leading the way.

“With COVID-19 in our communities, many of us are looking for simple steps we can take to stay healthier. As a healthcare organization, it is essential that we take a leadership role in caring for our community and creating the safest possible care environment.  We want to take every possible measure to protect ourselves, our teammates and our customers from preventable harm.” said Samantha Hanson, chief administrative officer, North Memorial Health.

To address these concerns North Memorial Health’s team member influenza vaccination program now requires mandatory participation. Vaccination has been shown to be effective in reducing the incidence of influenza in hospital staff and the patients we care for. This year, steps to prevent the flu are even more critical as we will face it alongside COVID-19, which can present similar symptoms and make diagnosis and treatment more difficult.

So far nearly 3,000 team members have already been vaccinated with a goal is achieve full participation by October 31. Of course, North Memorial also encourages community members to take the same step and get their flu vaccine and offer convenient options for flu shots at their primary care clinics with an appointment.

Fairview Announces Closings

Citing financial loss related to COVID, and other concerns, Fairview recently announced it would be closing Bethesda and St. Joseph’s hospitals, recent acquisitions in the HealthEast merger as well as several clinics and pharmacies statewide. Loses were projecting to the quarter of a billion dollar range.

 Bethesda had recently transitioned from focusing on post acute care to COVID specialty care and prior to the more recent spike in cases had seen a decline in patients.

Several strategies, including converting Bethesda into a facility serving the homeless, have been discussed. St. Joseph’s is Minnesota’s oldest hospital dating to 1853. It will take over the specialized COVID care until its closing and leaves St. Paul facing the loss of significant patient service.

Clinic closings include Columbia Heights, Downtown St. Paul, Farmington, Grand Avenue, Hiawatha, Hugo (HealthEast - 14688 Everton Ave. N) Integrated Primary Care, Minneapolis, Lino Lakes, Milaca, Pine City, Roseville, Savage, Xerxes (Bloomington Lake, Xerxes), Zimmerman, Ellsworth (WI), and Spring Valley (WI).  Pharmacy closings include Columbia Heights, Hiawatha (Minneapolis), Lino Lakes, Milaca, Rush City and Zimmerman. The Ways to Wellness Program will also be closed.

The closings include the elimination of some 900 jobs and impact an unspecified very large number of patients. They come on the heels of HeatlthPartners closing several clinics and pose many serious issues about the need for health care reform. Some of the clinics had been temporarily closed due to the pandemic and telemedicine has addressed some of the access issues.   The closings do not impact the M Health Fairview partnership with the University of Minnesota.

To address the closings Fairview plans to consolidate or repurpose some facilities, to expand services at other sites, and to increase hours at some of their remaining 40 locations.

MNsure adds new health insurance company for 2021

Residents in southeastern Minnesota will have a new MNSure option for 2021 following the addition of Madison, Wis.-based health insurance company Quartz, which anticipates offering plans in Fillmore, Houston, Olmstead, Wabasha, and Winona counties, all part of MNsure’s Rating Area 1.

Quartz will join MNsure’s six other partnering insurance companies: Blue Plus, HealthPartners, Medica, and UCare for medical coverage; and Dentegra and Delta Dental for dental coverage.

MNsure’s open enrollment period for the 2021 plan year runs Sunday, Nov. 1, through Tuesday, Dec. 22. All plans selected during this time will have a Jan. 1, 2021, effective date. Consumers will be able to view and compare 2021 plans in mid-October.

Tax credits, cost-sharing reductions, or no-cost or low-cost coverage under Medical Assistance or MinnesotaCare is available to those who qualify. An individual earning up to $51,040 a year, or a family of four earning up to $104,800, a year may be eligible for financial assistance. Updated income guidelines for plan year 2021 are located on MNsure.org.

MNsure has a statewide network of over 1,600 assisters who provide free, over-the-phone help for individuals looking to apply and enroll into health coverage.

Quartz Health Solutions, Inc. is jointly owned by UW Health, Gundersen Health System, and UnityPoint Health.

University launches Center for Healthy Aging and Innovation

The University of Minnesota School of Public Health’s new Center for Healthy Aging and Innovation (CHAI) seeks to foster interdisciplinary, community-engaged approaches to support students, researchers, and the community when addressing critical issues related to aging.

“CHAI will also be an open channel for policymakers who want to partner with the University and school to create legislation and programs to support our aging populations,” said Joseph Gaugler, Phd, director of the center.

CHAI‘s immediate goals are to address issues related to dementia care and support, the geriatric workforce, safety in long-term care, and quality and equity in long-term services and supports.

The center emerged from the school’s previous Center on Aging, which was founded by former Professor Robert Kane. It raised awareness across the University for the need to scientifically study aging.

Gaugler wants CHAI to be accessible to everyone and is structuring the center around three core areas: research, education, and equity/community engagement.

The center’s associate director for research is Associate Professor Tetyana Shippee, Phd, a member of the former Center on Aging who partnered with Gaugler in envisioning CHAI.

“I’m especially excited about the possibility for new opportunities to create and engage in new topics in aging science, collaborate with other researchers on grant proposals, and offer professional development for scholars doing aging-related research,” said Shippee.

Learn more at https://tinyurl.com/mp-chai-center.

Medicare Open Enrollment Begins

The annual Medicare Open Enrollment period began October 15 and will continue until December 7. During this period enrollees may change plans and there are numerous options that cover Medicare Parts A, B, C, and D and more.  There are a variety reasons an individual may wish to change plans and new coverage details with each annual enrollment period.

The Senior Linkage Line and Metropolitan Area Agencies on Aging provide a range of supportive resources for patients looking at options for themselves or loved ones. They offer non-biased information on what can be a complex and confusing topic. For example, Medicare provides patients a downloadable guide that is only 124 pages long. Besides serving the public they also offer programs for clinic staff members that may interface with senior patients who have questions. They are also able to provide educational materials and videos that clinics can offer patients onsite. For more information visit outreach@metroaging.com

Nurses Association Support Quarantine Pay Bill

The Minnesota Nurses Association has announced their support for a Minnesota House bill that would provide emergency paid leave for the time spent in quarantine for a worker who tests negatively for COVID-19.

Minnesota nurses have had to burn through their own sick time while waiting inordinate amounts of time for a COVID-19 test result or because a family member tested positive, which forced them to quarantine. This bill ensures that nurses who are following public safety protocols and doing the right thing to protect patients and the public are able to afford to do so.

“While Minnesota healthcare workers wait for a test, wait for results, or quarantine due to possible COVID exposure, they are expected to use their own sick time or PTO if their test comes back negative,” said MNA President Mary C. Turner. “Nurses are burning through their personal benefit time at alarming rates, which impacts their ability to take time away from work to treat a non-COVID illness or injury, or to take care of a family member.”

The bill would provide 100 hours of emergency paid leave to workers considered to be full time by their employer. This leave would cover nurses who have either been instructed to quarantine or exhibit symptoms while waiting for test results but later test negative. It would also cover caring for a family member that contracts COVID-19 or for the purpose of childcare if their school is closed.

Presently, a healthcare worker can only qualify for Workers’ Compensation pay if they themselves test positive for COVID-19. 

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Presently, a healthcare worker can only qualify for Workers’ Compensation pay if they themselves test positive for COVID-19.