Riverwood reopens elective surgical procedures

Paul Severson, MD, FACS, Chief of Surgery, Riverwood Healthcare Center

Following Governor Walz’s executive order to allow Minnesota hospitals to resume performing nonemergency surgical procedures, Riverwood Healthcare Center  reopened its surgery operations for elective procedures on Monday, May 11.

“This is good news for everyone,” said Riverwood CEO Todd Sandberg. “The temporary closing of elective surgeries has allowed time for Riverwood and hospitals statewide to prepare for an anticipated significant surge in COVID-19 cases and to promote social distancing to reduce the spread of the virus. From the start of this outbreak, we established separate entrances and pathways for those with respiratory or other symptoms and those with no symptoms. Now we are reopening our Michael Ryan Support Services entrance, which we closed in mid-March, for surgery patient use only.”

Riverwood will resume elective surgeries slowly at approximately half of normal operating volume and then gradually increase the number of procedures as the surgical team adjusts to new workflows and safety precautions.

Following Minnesota Department of Health guidelines, Riverwood has developed comprehensive guidelines to protect the health and safety of surgery patients and healthcare workers. The surgery staff will contact each surgery patient with detailed instructions on new processes for pre-operative exams, surgery check-in and other safety precautions, including testing for COVID-19.

“Our entire process is designed to minimize the risk of contracting any type of infection,” Sandberg said. “Those scheduled for surgery will be tested for COVID-19 to ensure that it is safe to undergo a surgical procedure. The test will be scheduled as part of the pre-operative process four to six days in advance of a surgery.”

Dr. Paul Severson, Chief of Surgery at Riverwood, added: “We can get surgery patients in and out of the hospital quickly with primarily same-day procedures. Riverwood is unique in that there is a remarkably state-of-the-art surgical center in a rural location that partners with the Minnesota Institute for Minimally Invasive Surgery (comprising five general surgeon faculty and one Advanced MIS Fellow, as well as three OB/GYN surgeons). Riverwood also jointly sponsors the Minnesota Reflux and Heartburn Center, the state’s only such center that evaluates and treats patients from all over the state and beyond.

“In addition, the Minnesota Center for Orthopaedics has three fellowship-trained surgeons in total joint, hand, and sports medicine. Even total joint replacements are now performed on an outpatient basis. Great River Eye Clinic also provides three ophthalmologists who perform eye surgeries. Additional specialists in Podiatry, Ear/Nose/Throat, and Urology make for a very busy surgical program that provides a high volume of primarily outpatient procedures.

“With our numerous highly specialized surgeons performing many minimally invasive, endoscopic and robotic-assisted procedures that support a rapid recovery, we are well positioned to rapidly and safely resume outpatient surgeries. With its multiple entrances and single level layout, Riverwood is set up perfectly to allow for surgery patients to come and go out without exposure to those who may be sick.”

Since the beginning of the outbreak nationwide, the incidence of COVID-19 in Aitkin County has been low with only two lab-confirmed cases as of May 8.

“However, the Minnesota Department of Health statistics show that COVID-19 continues to spread statewide,” Sandberg said. “With this in mind, we continue to be prepared for a potential increase of infections in the future “As we monitor this information, we are pleased to have the ability to welcome back patients for surgeries, helping them get back to life safe and sound.

“Ultimately, our hospital’s job is to keep patients safe and healthy. That means performing procedures when they’re needed and making sure patients go home feeling better than when they arrived. We will continue to adapt our processes to allow you to safely see your health care provider, receive your recommended screenings, and provide state-of-the-art surgical care.”

Riverwood will contact all those whose surgery procedures were temporarily cancelled for rescheduling. For residents interested in learning more about having a surgical procedure at Riverwood, call 218-927-5566.