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M Health Fairview converts Bethesda Hospital into state’s first dedicated COVID-19 care facility

Following a 72-hour, around-the-clock transformation effort, M Health Fairview Bethesda Hospital became Minnesota’s first hospital dedicated to the care of severely ill COVID-19 patients.
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At 4 p.m. on Friday, March 20, M Health Fairview Bethesda Hospital was a long-term, acute-care hospital (LTACH) with 50 beds.

Less than a week later, Bethesda became Minnesota’s first hospital dedicated solely to treating people with severe, confirmed cases of COVID-19. The facility accepted its first patient around 4:30 p.m. on Thursday, March 26, with more arriving later that day.

The transformation followed 72 hours of around-the-clock work by engineers, construction workers, environmental services employees, infection prevention experts and others to prepare the facility for an expected surge in COVID-19 patients – and protect them and our healthcare workers in a safe, dedicated environment. 

M Health Fairview is here to help you navigate the unprecedented global health challenge posed by COVID-19. Click here for helpful information, resources, and access to care.

“We all felt this sense of urgency to get these patients in this setting,” said Kristi Ball, vice president of hospital operations at Bethesda Hospital.

“But our first priority was safely moving the long-term acute care patients at Bethesda to other beds across the M Health Fairview system,” said Jeoff Will, chief operating officer of acute care hospitals with Fairview Health Services. “We moved 44 patients with 15 ambulances in five hours.”

As part of the facility conversion process, teams increased the total number of beds at the hospital from 50 to 90. 35 of these beds are ICU patient rooms, while the remaining 55 are medical-surgical beds. All 35 ICU rooms are negative pressure rooms. Negative pressure airflow keeps potentially contaminated air from recirculating outside of a patient room to other areas of the hospital. The technology is just one of the steps taken to keep staff and patients safe at the hospital.

Workers also replaced hard-to-clean carpet throughout the facility with linoleum, and converted a physical therapy gym to a radiology unit so that teams have better access to diagnostic imagery without leaving the facility.

The most significant change to the hospital, however, has nothing to do with physical infrastructure.

“The big transition though is what you can’t take a picture of, the level of expertise that’s in here,” said Pulmonologist Brian Amdahl, MD, who is vice president of medical affairs with Fairview Health Services. “We now have in-house intensive care unit doctors, researchers, hospitalists, registered nurse anesthetists, these patients will have access to the NIH drug trials that the university is participating in.”

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