The mission so far: Bobbi Adams

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I have received the great honor of being the next Chief Medical Officer at Tri-County Health Care. I want to thank my many coworkers and predecessor Benjamin Hess, MD. My Tri-County family has trusted me, and I won’t let them down! The mission has been challenging so far, but we can overcome anything together.

The pandemic has been stressful for our healthcare system. I’m glad that I’m beginning my tenure while it is declining. I hope with all of my heart that trends continue downward so we can return to the things we love. The biggest challenge in my new position is helping our medical team navigate the ever-changing COVID-19 landscape. I’m proud to be a part of a great team working to balance our current risks while maintaining a high level of precaution for any future threats.

Ushering in the new

In addition to combating COVID-19, I have the task of helping dozens of medical professionals acclimate to a new building. This task will require more work and attention to detail to make a safe and seamless transition for our staff and our community. We will make the big move in about a year, and I couldn’t be more excited.

Change is scary, but it can also be therapeutic. Some much-needed changes are on the horizon, and some of those changes generate anxiety. These are the kind of nerves that preface something great. As we make the change to Astera Health, our mission to be your trusted partner for life will not.

Dr. Adams and the mission so far.

Bobbi Adams, MD

About Dr. Adams

Dr. Adams has been a family medicine provider at Tri-County Health Care since 2000. Her 22 years of dedicated service are marked by a strong desire to help others while bringing new life into the world. When she isn’t in the hospital or clinic, she enjoys being with her family and tending to her garden. She’s also a big Minnesota Wild and Vikings fan.


COVID-19 endemic: hoping for change

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Tri-County Health Care has gone through some noticeable changes over the past weeks. Some plexiglass dividers have come down, visitors and guests have been invited back into the hospital setting, everything seems to be slowly returning to normal. Are we entering the COVID-19 endemic phase?

As the winter cold has left us, so has COVID-19 for the most part. According to the Centers for Disease Control, our area and the entire nation have seen a steady decline of COVID-19. On February 3, the CDC data tracker listed 351,465 new cases of COVID-19 in the United States. Less than two months later, that number has dropped to 9,011 new cases on March 20. Also, on February 3, the CDC data tracker showed 2,693 deaths, but on March 20, that number plummeted to 77 new deaths. At least for now, we are in a far better place going into spring.

COVID-19 Endemic

The drop in community prevalence has many throwing their masks away and returning to bars, concerts, and shopping centers. The decline has many experts speculating if the spread of omicron was the precursor to an endemic phase of the virus. An endemic phase would imply that COVID-19 is still present but localized to certain areas. Health organizations have not officially announced a transition to an endemic phase of the virus. People should still be taking precautions like avoiding crowds and social distancing.

The calm after the storm

We all want the pandemic to end, but we shouldn’t drop our guard just yet. Of course, breathe a sigh of relief. It was a hard winter fraught with illness and death. We all deserve some time to relax and hope for a better future, but we have to be steadfast in our mitigation to get there.

According to statistics gathered by the Joint Commission, on a county level, we have seen a slight increase in community spread. This could only be the natural rising and falling of data or a signal of the next surge. Over the last two years, we have experienced intense waves followed by lull periods. These moments of decreased activity were a welcome change of pace but ultimately fleeting. Cases rocketed upward only a short time later.

Active adjustments

Tri-County Health Care holds patient safety above all else. We have reformulated our standards of mitigation to offer increased protection while allowing for a certain level of convenience in our care. Our level of mitigation will rise and fall with the community prevalence of COVID-19. Numbers are on the downswing, so we are opening up, but we are ready to swiftly reinstate the same level of mitigation techniques in the event of a surge.

The only way to end the pandemic is with collective effort. Mitigation needs to be at the forefront of our efforts. COVID-19 vaccination needs to be fully embraced if we are to finally end the pandemic. As of now, Wadena County is far below the vaccination rate required to achieve herd immunity. We are at 47.3 percent, according to the Minnesota Department of Health statistics prepared on March 17. 70 percent of our county residents need to be vaccinated to achieve herd immunity.

What do you think?

Do you think COVID-19 will ever end? Ask yourself that question and be reasonable in your answer. Do you think we are entering a COVID-19 endemic phase? We are curious about your thoughts on the current state of our pandemic. Feel free to share in the comment section.

To schedule vaccination, call 218-631-3510. Patients can also receive the COVID-19 vaccine during a regular appointment with their provider. Please follow Tri-County Health Care on social media or visit TCHC.org/covidvaccine for regular updates.


Flu and masks

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Healthcare systems across the country have been battling COVID-19 for nearly two years. Face coverings are proven to be one one of the most important tools in keeping this virus at bay. Cloth masks are a popular infection control method worldwide, but they are a new prevention strategy in American life. Although they have become controversial, it is undeniable they slow the spread of COVID-19 and the flu. The flu and masks should be a common association.

Please take a few minutes to watch this PBS program on the importance of masks.

The impact

It seems like every year, thousands of people contract the dreaded flu. This terrible illness has become a part of our seasonal culture. The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention estimated that 28,000 people died from influenza from 2018 to 2019 in the United States. From 2017 to 2018, an estimated 52,000 people died in our country alone. Every year thousands meet an untimely death from this virus. Data trends and studies on the effectiveness of masks have some wondering if they should be worn more often.

Masks aren’t about necessarily protecting ourselves. They are about protecting others from contaminated droplets. Wearing a mask during the flu season might be the best way to protect our communities.

Infection prevention

Cheryl Houselog is Tri-County Health Care’s infection preventionist. She has the duty of stopping the spread of contagions. For the last two years, she has worked non-stop to provide safe working environments for the staff and patients of Tri-County Health Care. When asked what she felt was the best way to prevent the spread of the flu, she quickly stated the importance of respiratory hygiene. To her, a cloth mask is one of the most important barriers between you and sickness. Cheryl doesn’t think you need to constantly wear a mask but choosing to wear one in certain situations makes sense. When you plan to be around several different people, wearing a mask, especially during the flu season, can be a very wise decision.

“The fact that we did not see a lot of colds or influenza last year indicates that masking helps prevent transmission of many respiratory diseases,” – Cheryl Houselog

Masking is more important than ever! They may not be convenient or fashionable, but they can save lives. Data from the Influenza Surveillance Network has been included below. If you compare rates of influenza in the State of Minnesota, it is clear that mitigation efforts were having a strong impact on the spread of the flu and other respiratory illnesses. This winter, make sure you’re protected from the flu by wearing your masks and getting your flu shot.

Flu and Masks statistics.


Masks matter in schools!

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“I choose to wear a mask for a couple of different reasons. I currently have a high-risk teacher, and I want to protect the residents I work with at Mills Manor. I also don’t want to miss out on things like homecoming, prom, sports, and graduation,” said Lauryn Gravelle when asked about masks in school.

Senior year of high school is a major milestone in a person’s K-12 education. It is the grand finale that makes all the homework, cramming, and pop quizzes fade away. However, students have been missing out on this well-earned victory lap in the last couple of years. In 2020, graduations and proms were canceled in mass or held in an orthodox fashion. This year is gearing up to be no different as schools around the nation report high numbers of positive COVID-19 cases.

Lauryn is very busy with school, sports, and masks!

Lauryn Gravelle

Out of fashion

For a good chunk of 2020, masks were in style. Students across the country were sewing and bedazzling mask fabric in an act of pandemic unity. Unfortunately, things have shifted over the last several months, with mask no longer being seen as a helpful resource, only a hindrance. Right now, masks and the vaccine are two of the most powerful tools in the fight against COVID-19, but fatigue has set in. Months ago, classrooms were filled with masked students doing their best to continue studying during a pandemic. That fatigue is seen in school systems across the country.

Doing the right thing isn’t always comfortable

Lauryn’s mother, Wendy Gravelle, is a certified registered nurse anesthetist at Tri-County Health Care. She is also passionate about masking and the vaccine. “I was surprised as I didn’t know she was doing it. At a volleyball game, I saw her wearing it. I asked why she had it on, thinking maybe she wasn’t feeling well,” explained Wendy. Lauryn told her mother she wanted to protect those around her and do more to help during the pandemic.

“I honestly was just so proud at that moment to realize this is something she chose on her own, and it wasn’t me forcing her to do it.  Her sisters have also started wearing their masks, and I believe it was because of the impact she had on them.” – Wendy Gravelle

Wendy has four children, and all of them willfully chose to be vaccinated. Her family is very connected to the caregiving environment, and they would never want to accidentally transmit the virus to others, especially the elderly and immunocompromised. Lauryn works in an assisted living home and is frequently around people highly susceptible to COVID-19.

Masks have fallen out of fashion at many schools.

Masked and united

Masking is still crucial in the fight against COVID-19. It’s so important that even the vaccinated should wear one. Breakthrough infections can still occur in the vaccinated, making masks necessary for everyone when out and about. “I decided that Lauryn is empowering me to also follow her lead, and I wore my mask to her volleyball game. Everyone assumes you’re sick if you wear it. I informed them that if Lauryn can wear her mask at school, so can I,” said Wendy. Lauryn and some of her friends have been wearing masks to school, sporting events and while out shopping. They hope wearing their masks will inspire others to do the same. Lauryn is especially concerned for younger people that claim COVID-19 is a hoax.

The vaccine is currently available to children 12 and up. The vaccine is expected to be open to children ages 5 to 11 soon. Wendy spoke with Tri-County providers before getting her kids vaccinated. She recommends that parents talk to a trusted medical professional in addition to gathering information from trusted sources.

Wendy Gravelle is supporter of masks and vaccinations.

Wendy Gravelle

Getting the COVID-19 vaccine

Tri-County Health Care aims to vaccinate as many people as possible. To schedule an appointment, call 218-631-3510. Patients can also request the vaccine during regular provider appointments. Please follow Tri-County Health Care on social media or visit TCHC.org/covidvaccine for regular updates.


The COVID-19 variants and Mu

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The nature of a virus is to mutate so it can more easily spread. COVID-19 is no exception, and right now, there are four dominant variants. According to the Centers for Disease Control, scientists actively monitor populations for new mutations. This is necessary for tracking the virus and devising treatments.

Variants of concern

The CDC uses the classifications of interest, concern and high-consequence. Fortunately, no current variants are high-consequence. However, four of them have been identified as variants of concern.

Delta

Delta is the dominant strain. It was first discovered in India and is significantly more transmissible. It may cause more severe symptoms.

Alpha

Alpha was found in the United Kingdom and is a quick-spreading variant. Vaccines and treatments are effective against the Alpha variant.

Gamma

The very transmissible Gamma variant was detected in Brazil and Japan. The Gamma variant draws concern due to its ability to spread quickly and render some treatments less effective.

Beta

Similar to Gamma, the Beta variant spreads quickly from one host to another. Vaccines are effective but it does seem to be more virulent, making monoclonal anti-body treatment less effective. This variant was discovered in South Africa.

Variants are a constant concern for the medical community.

Variants of interest and Mu

A global pandemic gives a virus many opportunities to mutate. It’s important to keep tabs on every new mutation so medical professionals can be ready. Several variants of interest have been identified.

There is one particular variant of interest that has many on edge. The Mu variant has been making headlines for some time now, adding to the slew of identified variants. The Mu variant was discovered in Columbia back in January 2021. It has slowly made its way to the United States in small numbers. The problem with the Mu variant centers on its elusiveness. Vaccine experts predict this could be the virus that evades the current roster of COVID-19 vaccines. If the Mu variant were to pick up speed and become the new dominant strain, it would mean starting from square one again.

Tackling the fourth wave

During a recent interview with Lakeland PBS News, Tammy Suchy, Tri-County Health Care Quality and Risk Management Director, spoke frankly about the current difficulties with COVID-19.

“We have unfortunately had to keep people here longer than normal for things like strokes, heart attacks and sepsis, because there are no beds available in our region. We’ve even transferred a patient as far away as South Dakota.”

Tammy and the staff of Tri-County Health Care know that with every new variant comes the possibility of worsening circumstances. During her interview, Suchy made it very clear that the vaccine is the only way out of the pandemic and defeating the slew of variants on our doorstep.

Getting the COVID-19 vaccine

Tri-County Health Care aims to vaccinate as many people as possible. To schedule an appointment, call 218-631-3510. Patients can also request the vaccine during normal provider appointments. Please follow Tri-County Health Care on social media or visit TCHC.org/covidvaccine for regular updates.


National Immunization Awareness Month: Getting the jab!

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The COVID-19 pandemic has dominated every aspect of life. For the initial months of the pandemic, we were at the mercy of the virus while it targeted people in every phase of life. The pandemic and its economic and social factors forced a race for a vaccine. After months of testing, the vaccines emerged giving everyone hope for a return to a normal life. However, vaccine hesitancy continues to be an ongoing issue. Fortunately, In the face of the delta variant, vaccinations are increasing. August is National Immunization Awareness Month and now is a perfect opportunity for a fresh start.

We as a society have seen the constant news coverage and public addresses. All of this information can lead to mental exhaustion but we cannot lose sight of our goal. For a time, we removed the masks and ventured out, only to put the masks right back on. Understandably, this is depressing but we do have hope. We still have the best weapon against COVID-19 and its current variants. August is the time to take a fresh look at the COVID-19 pandemic as a problem that we can solve with medical science and solidarity.

Use this blog as a point of reflection. As we gear up for the new school year, sports and August gatherings, just know those things would be safer after getting the vaccine.

Voices of TCHC staff

Its important to hear a variety of perspective on such a pressing issue. Several members of Tri-County staff shared their personal thoughts on the vaccine and why they chose to be vaccinated.

Teenagers are able to receive the COVID-19 vaccine with a parental permission

The COVID-19 vaccine is available for people 12 and older.

“While I have limited knowledge of vaccinations, I knew right away that getting the vaccine was at the top of my priority list. Many people are hesitant to get the vaccine due to the political pressure surrounding it, however I never felt that it was a political decision. I made the decision to get the vaccine because I didn’t want COVID to control my life anymore.” – Jessica Frank

“It was simple for me. I do not want to get COVID. Spreading COVID to the people I care about is always a concern. I believe the vaccine is safe.” – Debbie Sly

“I chose to receive the vaccine because I believe in the advances that have been made in medical science. My husband has COPD and is oxygen dependent during the night and has many other diagnosis’ that puts him at high risk. We both received our vaccines as soon as they were available even knowing that they are not guaranteed to be 100 percent effective.” – Brenda Niemela

Abbey Truh and vaccine clinics

In the initial months of vaccine distribution, production issues stifled rollout. There was a great deal of demand but so few vaccines to go around. Attempting to get the vaccine to the people who needed it was an immense challenge. Abbey Truh, a registered nurse at Tri-County Health Care, was chosen to spearhead vaccine clinics. To get a vaccine at Tri-County Health Care, you have to go through Abbey at some point.

For several months Abbey and her team have organized COVID-19 vaccine clinics

Abbey Truh, RN

“Education is a huge part of putting patients at ease,” said Abbey when asked about her experience organizing the clinics. A constant factor of her job is educating people when they walk through the door. Many are on the fence; some are just scared and some simply lack the understanding of how the vaccine can protect them. Abbey has been following the creation of these vaccines from the start. She knows them inside and out. Most of all, she understands the end goal, getting to herd immunity.

Like with other nurses and providers, Abbey is tired and wants to return to normal operations but that can’t happen until we reach herd immunity. Abbey cites rampant misinformation and untrustworthy news sources as a major issue for vaccine hesitancy. People are simply not getting the right information from a trusted source and are instead retreating to social media only to find harmful takes and conspiracies.

Crunching the numbers

To date, Tri-County Health Care has administered 4,498 COVID-19 vaccines with the Pfizer vaccine being the predominant vaccine available. According to the Minnesota Department of Health, 5,123 people have received at least one dose in Wadena County. Currently 13, 654 people reside in Wadena County which puts us at roughly 38 percent vaccinated. To achieve herd immunity, we must reach 70-80 percent. National Immunization Awareness Month is a great chance to push for 50 percent. Half of our county population vaccinated would be a big milestone in the fight against COVID-19. The COVID-19 vaccine has exploded in availability over the last few months and is readily available in most places. Please consult your provider or utilize an online resource to find a COVID-19 vaccination site nearby.

More voices of TCHC staff

“I was more scared of getting COVID than the vaccine. The mask and the vaccine work because I assist people confirmed with COVID and I haven’t gotten it yet.” – Vonnie Perius

“I had COVID-19 before Thanksgiving and I was really sick. Two weeks later my husband got really sick with COVID as well. We didn’t want to get it again and so we decided to get the vaccine. We didn’t have any side effects from getting the vaccine. As far as we are concerned, it was worth getting the shot.” – Diane Crabb

“For myself and my children, there was no question if we would be vaccinated or not. I work with such a high-risk population (newborns) that I choose to vaccinate for myself, my family, and my patients’ health. I see a lot of patients who choose not to vaccinate their children, a few who choose to wait on the vaccines until the baby is a little older, and a few who want to space them out.  It is a very personal decision that I hope no one makes lightly.” – Sarah Riedel

The only tool we have

During an interview, Bobbi Adams, M.D., revealed her personal feelings about the pandemic and the vaccine. She discussed difficulties the providers and medical staff encountered after COVID-19 became prevalent in the area. Dr. Adams misses life before the pandemic and yearns to communicate with her patients unhindered by masks and layers of PPE. From her perspective, the only way to get back to normal life is to get the vaccine.

Getting the COVID-19 vaccine

During National Immunization Awareness Month, Tri-County Health Care wants to vaccinate as many people as possible. Pfizer vaccine clinics will be held every Thursday in August. The one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine is also available. Patients can also get the vaccine during a normal provider appointment. To schedule an appointment, call 218-631-3510. Please follow Tri-County Health Care on social media or visit TCHC.org/covidvaccine for regular updates.


Medical Laboratory Week: One test at a time

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Medical Laboratory Week is a great time to observe an industry that is not well understood. Medical laboratory technicians are essential in helping providers diagnose and treat you. Here’s a sneak peek at this fascinating career and why we need laboratory technicians more than ever.

Lab staff: Your first line of defense

If you were asked what the most uncomfortable part of a clinic visit is, you might say getting your blood drawn or providing a urine sample. It’s uncomfortable and pushes privacy boundaries. Have you ever considered that without that blood draw or urine sample, your provider might not be able to help you? The information provided by your blood and urine is crucial for helping your provider create a care plan. The laboratory staff responsible for these tests are on the first line of defense against diseases and other health concerns.

A challenging but worthy career

Medical laboratory technicians (MLT), medical technologists (MT), medical laboratory scientists (MLS), phlebotomists and pathologists are the professionals that make up the Tri-County Health Care laboratory team. Despite the importance of the MLT profession, there is a shortage of MLTs locally and across the United States. According to the American Society for Clinical Laboratory Science, the MLT workforce shortage is reaching a crisis level. An aging workforce, more demand for laboratory services, advancing laboratory technology, and a low number of MLT graduates each year contribute to the problem. Enrollment and graduation numbers are decreasing, and the workforce trend is not enough to keep up with demand. This career field typically requires an associate degree.

The lab department performs a wide variety of tests and supports hospital staff

Cindy Kube-Parks, Tri-County Health Care Medical Lab Technician

Putting the patient first

Though laboratory staff typically work behind the scenes, they do collect blood and samples from patients. They take special care to make sure patients know exactly what’s happening.

Cindy Kube-Parks, a Medical Lab Technician, has worked at Tri-County Health Care for almost 30 years. Cindy takes pride in her work and being able to give vital test results to providers. “I like the people and the customers we serve,” said Cindy when asked about her position in the laboratory.  She hopes the week-long observance will draw some much-needed attention to the profession.

Detecting COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic has taken its toll on every sector of our country.  Laboratory staff are on the frontline fighting the COVID-19 pandemic. Numerous changes occurred to keep them protected when coming face to face with patients potentially infected with COVID-19.

When shadowing Cindy, she showed off the process of testing samples for COVID-19 on the Abbott ID Now instrument. Within 15 minutes, Cindy determined the results and entered them into the electronic medical record.  There are seven testing devices in the hospital laboratory, and the satellite laboratories each have two COVID-19 testing devices. The laboratory staff tests dozens of COVID-19 specimens daily.

Joyelle Hill, Laboratory Manager at Tri-County Health Care.

Joyelle Hill, Tri-County Health Care Laboratory Manager

COVID-19 has greatly impacted the laboratory with supply shortages.  Around the world, medical staff are suffering from a lack of resources.  Cindy and the rest of the team have made several concessions to continue providing top-tier diagnostic testing to the Tri-County Health Care system. Joyelle Hill, Laboratory Manager, commented on maintaining a high level of care under the worst possible circumstances. Joyelle praised her team for the great effort during this uncertain time.

The laboratory

Joyelle also stated just how lucky Tri-County Health Care is as an organization. The hospital lab is capable of a wide variety of testing and has some of the best and brightest laboratorians. “The laboratory staff members have become an extended family to me,” said Joyelle.

A health care system wouldn’t be possible without laboratory staff. According to Joyelle, the laboratory profession is not well known or understood. Doctors and nurses are often the ones seen but are not solely responsible for each diagnosis. Often it is a team effort requiring good science executed behind closed doors. “The laboratory department is an essential part of the healthcare system,” said Joyelle.

We need you!

Right now, there is a shortage of medical laboratory technicians. Due to vacancies, retirements and relocations, there is a need for four full-time laboratory technicians at Tri-County Health Care. Please visit our Careers page to review current vacancies. Follow Tri-County Health Care on social media for regular updates.


Doctor’s Day 2021: Thank your provider!

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National Doctor’s Day is a time to honor the millions of healthcare providers standing between us and illness. It’s easy to let observances pass by without a singular moment of reflection but this year we should all turn our attention to the doctors that have taken a stand for our collective health. Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, hundreds of healthcare workers have perished. Every day they go to work not knowing if they will be infected with a potentially deadly respiratory disease.

Use this time to honor doctors and other medical staff still battling COVID-19. Some of Tri-County Health Care’s providers took this time to reflect on their careers.

Physician Provider Doctor Tri-County Health Care Dr. Heidi Olson Doctor's Day

Heidi Olson, M.D.

Heidi Olson: Science and superior care

Why did you choose your career path?

“I love science, the human body, and having a connection with others.”

What have you learned in the last year of practicing medicine during a pandemic?

“As healthcare providers, we need to have a little grace with ourselves and others. Forgiveness is so important right now. There are a lot of hard times in life and beating up on ourselves and others is not the answer.”

Do you have any advice for someone interested in becoming a doctor?

“Follow your passions, there are so many unique areas and facets of medicine. For example, I love wilderness medicine and how it pertains to my outdoor hobbies. In my clinical practice, I enjoy focusing on wellness and quality of life, as well as palliative care in my end-of-life patients.”

Physician Provider Doctor Tri-County Health Care Dr. Shaneen Schmidt Doctor's Day

Dr. Schmidt with her patients, Alyssa and Fiana

Shaneen Schmidt: Patience

For National Doctor’s Day, people are curious, why did you go into medicine?

“I chose to be a physician because I wanted to be instrumental in improving the life and health of others. Particularly, I like being able to put the various social aspects together when taking care of a family. Understanding that a mother’s health or their child’s health affects how they take care of themselves.”

What has the pandemic taught you?

I had to learn how to increase my flexibility and patience. The state of the virus is always changing and I had to learn patience in trying to explain a novel virus that we are constantly researching. I’ve also had to learn to accept that some people may not acknowledge or appreciate my expertise.”

Any advice for newbies entering the field?

“I would recommend they focus extensively on classwork, training and the perseverance that it takes to get through eight years of education plus the several years of specialized training. If you can get through that, a very rewarding career awaits you.”

Physician Provider Doctor Tri-County Health Care Dr. David Kloss Doctor's Day

David Kloss, M.D.

David Kloss: Work with your team!

Why did you become a surgeon? ​

“I love interacting with people and their families and I’ve always had a knack for taking things apart, figuring out what was wrong, and putting them back together. I ​enjoy the changing routine and challenges of being a surgeon.”

What is the important takeaway from this pandemic? 

“People are resilient and we can get through anything if we stick together.”

Do you have any advice for surgeons in training? 

“Work hard and play hard! It is important to study, apply yourself, but also make time for fun to avoid burnout. Medicine is a very long marathon race. You have to pace yourself to make it all the way through. Eat healthy, get some exercise, and take a vacation with your family.”

Share with me a time when your knowledge of medicine changed someone’s life for the better.

“A doctor called me about a 60-year-old gentleman with sudden severe back and abdominal pain. He was sweating profusely. Not in shock but his heart rate was elevated. I made the diagnosis over the phone of a rupturing aortic aneurysm. I ordered an emergent CAT scan over the phone and met him in the ER. From there, we expedited his resuscitation and transferred him to a surgeon at a facility that could perform an aortic stent graft. He had a rupturing iliac artery aneurysm (a rare and very difficult issue, even more difficult to treat). By expediting the CT scan along with his resuscitation and communicating directly with the specialist, I saved his life.  It is not always yourself doing the surgery, but it can be the simple little things that save a life. That’s what makes medicine the greatest career.”

Physician Provider Doctor Tri-County Health Care Dr. Ben Hess Doctor's Day

Ben Hess, M.D.

Ben Hess: Trust is a valuable resource

What led you to this profession?

“I love challenges. I enjoy solving complicated puzzles and I wanted to do something that would help my community.”

What insight have you gained from the pandemic?

“As complex and cumbersome as medicine is normally, in a crisis, we can act decisively and quickly. The public trust is a precious resource we should never squander.”

On National Doctor’s Day, do you have any advice for students?

“Take the hardest classes from the best teachers, regardless of the subject. Everything you learn will help in medicine whether it is science, math, or even art because they all make you a more well-rounded person which can help you connect better to people.”

Laura DuChene: Small town, big heart

Why did you want to become a physician? 

“I’ve wanted to be a physician for as long as I can remember. I grew up in a small town in central Minnesota. We had a family physician and he always went above and beyond. I decided when I became a doctor, I wanted to be just like him. I knew I wanted to raise my children in a small town where I could be like him, and that led me to Tri-County Health Care.”

What’s the best part of being a doctor?

“I love getting to know the families and watching them grow and change. There is nothing more rewarding than delivering a baby and watching that patient become a parent for the first time.”

Has the pandemic shown you anything special?

“We are a strong community and we have a fantastic family of medical providers. Many people have come together to make our community safe and I couldn’t be prouder to live and work here.”

For National Doctor’s Day, please reach out to your provider and let them know how they have impacted your life for the better. Please follow Tri-County Health Care on social media for regular updates. To schedule an appointment with one of our providers, please call 218-631-3510.

Physician Provider Doctor Tri-County Health Care Dr. Laura DuChene Doctor's Day

Dr. DuChene with her patient, Amanda.


First step back to normal: Dr. Redig on the vaccine

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On Dec 21, 2020, Dr. Redig felt the pinch of a needle. A group of socially distanced reporters snapped photos and recorded video of the historic event. She was the first at Tri-County Health Care to receive the vaccine. She and several others marked the beginning of a movement within Tri-County, a mission to get as many people vaccinated as possible. This is the first step back to normal.

Why get the vaccine?

“I did it for myself, my family, and the patients I see every day,” said Dr. Redig. For her, this is the first step back to normal. When the vaccine was offered to her, she wasted no time and signed up. Dr. Redig has been following the development of the vaccine and knows it is safe.

Nothing but the usual symptomsDr. Redig has now received both doses of the COVID-19 vaccine.

Dr. Redig is alive and well. With her first dose, she experienced only mild soreness in her arm. This pain would only last a couple of days. On Jan. 11, she received her second dose. This time, she was sore and experienced slight chills and body aches. This was nothing she couldn’t handle and was still able to work and go about her day normally. These symptoms are a part of the typical immune system response associated with vaccination.

Give it time

Receiving two doses does not make you automatically immune to COVID-19. It takes around two weeks after the second dose for the body to generate proper immunity. It’s important even after receiving the second dose to continue practicing mitigation strategies. The vaccine does have a high efficacy rate but it doesn’t provide 100 percent immunity. Everyone must continue wearing masks in public while socially distancing themselves from others.

A safe vaccine for everyone

According to Dr. Redig, there are two things to remember when considering the vaccine. First, get it to protect yourself and the ones you love. The second is that this is an opportunity to do something for the good of everyone. Getting the vaccine is a way to heal our world and take a big step toward normal life. A vaccine is the only way to achieve herd immunity and only when we achieve herd immunity will it be safe to open back up.

The first thing I’ll do…

Dr. Redig works in the emergency room at Tri-County Health Care and is no stranger to intense situations but she and her coworkers are in agreement that things were easier before COVID-19. Staff members dream of the days before the pandemic but have hope for a future where the population is more aware of their health. For Dr. Redig, when COVID-19 is finally defeated, she plans to gather with friends, relatives, and neighbors for a huge birthday party for her twins, one without masks and hand sanitizer.

For more information about the vaccine please visit TCHC.org/covidvaccine. The CDC website is a great resource for information about COVID-19. For regular updates on the progress of the vaccine please follow Tri-County Health Care on Facebook.


Coping with COVID-19 during the holidays

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COVID-19 has changed much about our society over the last year. It may seem like coping with COVID-19 during the holidays is just one more change to navigate. The holidays have changed with the pandemic. In years past, December would be a time for Christmas parties and family gatherings but that isn’t possible this year. Tri-County Health Care wants you to enjoy the holidays safely. We offer these tips to enjoy the 2020 holiday season.

Stay Home and stay safe

This is the one time of year families can set aside work and gather with family, but things have to be a little different this time around. Instead of making the long trek to grandma’s house, keep everyone safe by staying home. Holiday gatherings are a risk to become super spreader events. Meeting for Christmas dinner isn’t worth spreading COVID-19. This year, take a break from the icy roads and fruit cake.

Embrace technology this year

The gift of technology

Embrace technology this year. Most have been blessed with a smartphone. Often this little plastic rectangle dominates our lives and causes a certain amount of stress but it is also a great tool for communication. It allows us to connect to our loved ones who may live hundreds of miles away. Call your family members, use video chat and learn to love technology. Technology exists to make life easier; let’s let it do that. This year, save a spot around the Christmas tree for an iPad.

Don’t go it alone

Spending time with your immediate family is great but not everyone has family they live with. This can be a little depressing…but it doesn’t have to be. Don’t spend the holiday alone, find creative ways to connect with others without standing in the same room. Take this opportunity to explore social media. There are a myriad of groups, channels and pages dedicated to spreading Christmas cheer. If you’re feeling lonely, jump on Facebook and enjoy some cat videos or check out other online communities that focus on an area of interest.

New traditions

Instead of pining over past Christmases, look to the future. Use this year as an opportunity to create new traditions that can be passed down for generations. The holidays have become increasingly corporate and materialistic over the years. Break this downward trend and use this year to come up with new ways to enjoy the holidays. Challenge yourself to learn a new Christmas recipe. Flex your arts and crafts skills and make custom ornaments or decorations. Even doing something a simple as playing a board game or watching a Christmas movie could liven things up.

Christmas 2020 needs to be a little different

The pandemic won’t last forever and we’ve all been given a little hope. A vaccine is currently being distributed to frontline workers and it could bring an end to the pandemic. Use this time to reflect. Tolerating COVID-19 during the holidays doesn’t have to overshadow the good tidings this time of year should bring.

Tri-County Health Care is taking extensive measures to safeguard the health of its employees and patients. Check out this page for more information about COVID-19 and how Tri-County Health Care is putting your health first.


Managing COPD during a pandemic

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Managing COPD during the pandemic COVID-19 Tri-County Health Care Respiratory breathingIn November 2018, the Tri-Living Well blog featured Doug Stromberg, IT Supervisor at Tri-County Health Care. Doug suffers from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), a lung disease that causes difficulty breathing. Managing COPD during a pandemic is challenging and shedding light on his experience could help others.

Doug has dealt with respiratory problems for years. He started smoking as a teenager and kept smoking until he was in his thirties. In 2017, things took an intense turn. After a bout of breathing issues, Doug was diagnosed with COPD and had to use a nebulizer.

After problems mounted and Doug’s quality of life dropped, he decided to meet with Bobbi Adams, M.D. Doug was given stronger medication which vastly improved his living situation. The nebulizer is now retired and he was able to return to a relatively normal life.

Where is he now?

Doug still works at Tri-County in the IT department, although his office looks a little different these days. Since the COVID-19 pandemic kicked off, Doug has taken refuge in his office bunker at home. People with COPD are considered immune-compromised and Doug takes his health very seriously. He has limited his exposure to others and receives supplies by delivery only. He utilizes masks, face shields, gloves and does everything he can to keep COVID-19 at bay.

“COPD can’t get better; it will only worsen over time. My goal at this point is to do everything I can to slow the progression of the disease. And there are certain strategies for doing just that,” said Doug about the status of his condition. Protecting his respiratory system is paramount during these times. Contracting COVID-19 could easily kill him. Doug continues to use an inhaled steroid twice a day. He still has an inhaler but seldom needs it. This treatment provided by Dr. Adams and the Tri-County staff is still working great.

Advice for others

Doug urges others that suffer from COPD to make lifestyle changes. Stop smoking is his main advice. Working with a health care provider is also important. The provider will prescribe medication and develop a plan for managing the disease. Doug found Dr. Adams at Tri-County Health Care and it changed his life for the better.

Managing COPD during a pandemic causes unique problems. COVID-19 directly affects the lungs and can be fatal if combined with COPD. If you suffer from COPD and need a consultation, please contact Tri-County Health Care at 218-631-3510.

Doug is the IT Supervisor at Tri-County Health Care Managing COPD during a pandemic Respiratory breathing

 About Doug: Doug Stromberg works in the IT department at Tri-County Health Care. He is a longtime Wadena resident and a graduate of Wadena-Deer Creek schools. Doug has worked in technology for over 40 years. His background includes work in the telephone industry, cable television, radio broadcast engineering and many years as an instructor at Wadena Technical College (now M State). Prior to coming to work at TCHC, Doug operated a technical services company in partnership with his son, Mike. Doug is married to Jeannie and has two sons, two daughters-in-law and four grandchildren. His interests include his lake cabin and following Minnesota sports.


COVID-19 vaccine: Everything you need to know

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The announcement of a COVID-19 vaccine has many breathing a sigh of relief. Several months of staying home, social distancing, and wearing masks has led to a major change in everyday life. People are in a hurry to return to the way things were and a vaccine seems like the only way out. Others are more hesitant; they may believe the vaccine has not passed through proper testing.

This article is designed to be a fact sheet about the upcoming vaccines. It is a condensed and simplified record of information gathered from sources like the Minnesota Department of Health, the CDC and the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services.

Operation Warp Speed

Operation Warp Speed (OWS) combines scientific testing and government quality control. Essentially, OWS removes several administrative hurdles during the production of an effective vaccine. The methodology associated with OWS uses processes that would normally take years and compresses them down. This change is done by running the various steps simultaneously rather than one at a time.

Medical workers and seniors will be among the first to get the vaccine.

The breakdown

Creating an effective vaccine requires multiple steps and extensive testing. Generally, the process includes:

  • Methodology and lab research
  • FDA approval for clinical trials
  • Volunteer testing
  • Safety and efficacy testing in a large group
  • Large population testing with control groups
  • Final FDA approval
  • Distribution

The facts

  1. There is currently no approved vaccine available in the United States. Testing is underway, and a vaccine is expected before 2021.
  2. You will not contract COVID-19 by receiving the vaccine. The vaccines do not use a live virus. It will be similar to other widely used vaccines. It may cause symptoms like fatigue or muscle pain. These symptoms mean the vaccine is working.
  3. COVID-19 vaccination will not make you test positive for COVID-19. You may test positive for antibodies. This positive antibody test suggests either a previous infection or that the vaccine successfully created antibodies.
  4. People who were previously infected with COVID-19 should still consider being vaccinated. Studies suggest that reinfection is possible, and antibodies may last just a few months.
  5. Testing shows that receiving the vaccine does provide antibodies in around 90 percent of people. Receiving the vaccine could be the best option for fighting COVID-19.
  6. The vaccine was not rushed. Instead, administrative red tape was removed. The development and testing trials are still extensive.
  7. Once distribution begins, the first rounds of the vaccine will most likely go to health care workers and people with compromised immune systems.
  8. The COVID-19 vaccine is not mandatory.
  9. The COVID-19 vaccine will be available at no cost. However, providers of the vaccination will be able to charge an office visit fee.
  10. An mRNA vaccine will not harm your DNA. mRNA, which stands for messenger ribonucleic acid, makes protein. It does not interact with DNA at any point.

The problem with herd immunity

Herd immunity is a common talking point but is likely impossible to achieve. This form of immunity implies that a large enough section of the population has contracted the virus and is resistant. Herd immunity is not a reliable strategy for combating COVID-19. It is due to a lack of important data about transmission frequency after infection. We do not know how long it takes from initial infection for a person to be vulnerable again.

The race for a vaccine

At this time, five vaccines are being tested. These vaccines are being tested by:

  • AstraZeneca
  • Janssen
  • Moderna
  • Novavax
  • Pfizer

AHA, AMA, ANA seeks safe COVID-19 vaccine

Recently, the American Health Association, the American Medical Association, and the American Nurses Association addressed the American people about the status of the COVID-19 vaccine. They have given their full support to the creation of a safe vaccine. All three groups consider it to be the best option for safeguarding communities around the world. They cited the importance of scientific testing, safe distribution and total transparency about the vaccine within the address. They collectively want people to know the benefits and risks associated with the vaccine.

Become informed

The rate of vaccine production might seem like a cause for concern, but it is not. The same level of quality control used in the past is present with the manufacturing of these vaccines. The creation of these vaccines is the combination of good science and a unified need for relief.

For more information about how Tri-County Health Care and how it has been combating COVID-19, visit TCHC.org/coronavirus.


COVID-19 Requires Unified Response

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We have reached a serious and critical point in our efforts to battle COVID-19. COVID-19 requires a unified response now. This virus is not only affecting those overseas or in densely populated areas; it has made its way to rural central Minnesota and is currently spreading quickly right here in our own backyard. Cases of COVID-19 have surged in recent weeks. The trajectory of these cases is predicted to increase throughout the holiday season.Tri-County Health Care COVID Todd County Wadena County Health Partners Germs Hand Hygiene

Healthcare facilities and their respective staff have watched as larger regional hospitals within the state have been overrun. Bed space has been depleted; there is no more room. That means COVID-positive individuals that may have otherwise been transferred to a larger hospital must seek care locally, increasing the strain on our local hospitals which are also near capacity. If this trend continues, this crisis will quickly increase and affect our ability to provide care to those who need it. People who could have been saved may succumb to COVID-19.

As the holidays draw near, healthcare leaders in the area have come together to plead that you celebrate responsibly this holiday season. These gatherings can be a significant source of spread and risk the lives of family members and friends. It may not be easy, but we ask you please try to find safe alternatives to these gatherings. Stay home. Call your loved ones or use video chat to communicate.

Fighting this virus requires a unified front, not just from hospitals but from every single individual. Everyone needs to practice physical distancing, wash your hands regularly, only leave home when absolutely necessary and wear a mask when in public.

COVID-19 is not a hoax or conspiracy. It is a very real virus affecting us all. The recent COVID-19 surge requires unified response. Please take this message seriously. For us to return to normal life as soon as possible, it must be earned with great effort and genuine care for others.

Thank you and stay well,

Daniel J Swenson
Administrator, CentraCare – Long Prairie

Joel Beiswenger
President & CEO, Tri-County Health Care

Tim Rice
President & CEO, Lakewood Health System

Jackie Och
Director, Todd County Health & Human Services

Cindy Pederson
Director, Wadena County Public Health