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The Marshall County Healthcare Center began serving patients from a second facility on Monday and had 19 patients its first day. The former Norstar Federal Credit Union building was remodeled to include four exam rooms and offices. From left to right are RN Lacey Hagen and office employees Steph Baker and Sara Carlson.

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There’s a new sign on the door of the former Norstar Federal Credit Union building. The Marshall County Healthcare Center has opened up an off-site clinic at the location to handle routine wellness services.

MCHC Has New Weapon In Arsenal For Virus Fight

The Marshall County Healthcare Center (MCHC) in Britton has been working for weeks to prepare to fight the COVID-19 pandemic in northeast South Dakota, and it now has another weapon in its arsenal.

Beginning Monday a second location opened for business. MCHC has set up shop in the former Norstar Federal Credit Union building to help provide routine care in a separate environment from where COVID-19 cases would be handled.

“We knew the building was for sale, and as we were planning for healthcare services we wanted an entry point for a wellness clinic compared to a respiratory clinic,” said MCHC Administrator Nick Fosness, who noted that MCHC has a one-year rental agreement with Norstar. “With this off-site location we can still meet ongoing healthcare needs without the fear of COVID-19 exposure that exists when going into a healthcare facility that is all attached like ours is.”

The MCHC put remodel ing plans into high gear, creating four exam rooms from former bank offices, building offices on the north side of the building for hospital staff, and replacing carpet with new flooring.

“Now when you enter the building there will be a screener at the door to meet you, and you will wash your hands and go to your room to meet your provider,” noted Fosness. “We’re still not a walk-in clinic at either location. You have to call 605-448-2253, option 2, to make an appointment.”

About 10 MCHC employees will be working from the new location. That will include two to three medical personnel each day, along with office workers, most who had been working at home.

A total of 19 patients were seen in the new facility on its first day Monday. That compared to just three visits in the primary facility last Friday.

“I think the biggest positive is confidence that people have in coming into the clinic to receive routine care,” stressed Fosness, “and that we don’t have to put on pause important routine care such as physicals, medication checks, or blood draws. I think a lot of people had put those things on the back burner. Time after time we hear how happy people are to be able to go to their hometown hospital.

“With this off-site location we’re really doubling down on preventative care that we want people to be able to continue to receive,” added Fosness. “It seems to be well-received from the public and decreases that fear of entering a healthcare facility during these tough times. We also want people to know that we’re doing it in the safest way and are really good at cleaning. We’re making sure the environments are very clean.”

Fosness complimented area residents on their response to the COVID-19 threat.

“We appreciate the efforts by people in and around the area and wish to thank them from the healthcare team. We would also like to extend appreciation to the Norstar Federal Credit Union for working with us in our time of need and helping to meet this pandemic. It’s another example of a great, creative small-town solution. A thank you also to Sunset Colony for making over 100 gowns for hospital staff and for the volunteers who have made countless cloth masks. Those things were especially needed, and we appreciate the outpouring of public support.”

The Britton facility is also ready for whatever lies in the future.

“Prior to this pandemic I never would have thought we would get to the point where we had somebody sitting at the front door behind Plexiglas and wearing a mask and goggles,” said Fosness. “But that’s how we work now. All we have to do is look at Sioux Falls and see that the issues are real. Managing that fear of the people is tough because of the fear of the unknown. It’s taxing on everybody.

“But we’re ready to take on patients and feel we’re as ready as any other hospital. We have Avera to work with, along with the South Dakota Department of Health. The whole region is collaborating for surge planning, and our off-site facility could also help us if we had overflow during a surge.”

Avera did announce staffing cuts at its facilities last week, but Fosness said those cuts did not affect anything at MCHC. In fact, the facility is still looking to fill a couple of positions.

Fosness also put in a plug for the MCHC team.

“A special thank you to the tireless efforts of staff at MCHC. They have been amazing to work with during this pandemic, putting in numerous hours in meetings and making a bunch of changes in the stressful times we are all working in. And behind those masks there is still a smile!”

Prior to this pandemic I never would have thought we would get to the point where we had somebody sitting at the front door behind Plexiglas and wearing a mask and goggles. But that’s how we work now.”

----Nick Fosness

Marshall County Journal

PO Box 69, Britton, SD 57430
Phone: (605) 448-2281
Fax: (605) 448-2282