9 questions with a rural hospital CEO

Northfield Hospital and Clinics CEO Steve Underdahl on how it is handling care during the pandemic

Northfield Hospital.jpg
Northfield Hospital and Clinics in Northfield, Minnesota. Contributed

In Northfield, a town of 20,000 people in southern Minnesota, Northfield Hospital and Clinics CEO Steve Underdahl answers some questions on how it is handling care during the pandemic.

1) How many beds does the hospital have available?

Northfield Hospital has 37 medical surgical beds, and 40 long term care beds.

2) Does the hospital have a ventilator?

We do not have a ventilator unit at NH+C, but we do have a small amount of ventilator technology that we will use to manage people locally with a goal of transferring then to a facility that will be able to better care for them.


3) Do you have an intensive care unit?

We don’t have an ICU. We have a CCU (critical care unit) for patients that need more attention. If someone requires an ICU (primarily for access to ventilator care) we will transfer them as quickly and safely as possible.

4) Where are you getting your new supplies from, and is there a shortage?

We have a top-notch supply chain team that’s making sure we have not only PPE (personal protective equipment) but all the other supplies we might need for an extended effort. So for now, we are in pretty good shape.

5) What is your testing process for COVID-19?

Like hospitals and health systems across Minnesota, we’re conserving testing resources for the highest-priority individuals: symptomatic patients who are hospitalized; healthcare and emergency workers who may have been exposed and we need to confirm or challenge their diagnosis; and long-term care residents who are symptomatic and ill.

We recommend to anyone who thinks they may have been in contact with someone with COVID-19 to stay home for 14 days and monitor for symptoms: fever over 100.4, cough, labored breathing.

If symptoms get worse, people should CALL their clinic or Emergency Department to determine the best place for them to be seen.


MDH contacts individuals who may have been in contact with a confirmed case. If there is a case detected within your circle of friends, family, acquaintances, MDH will contact you.

6) How have you communicated this process to the communities you serve?

We communicate with the communities we serve through local news (print and radio), the News section of our website, a dedicated COVID-19 page on our website, Facebook (including community group pages). We share news and information with City and Police leaders as well.

We’re sharing information with the public from credible sources to help them seek care when they need it, care for themselves at home when they can, and stay healthy.

7) Where are tests sent to be processed, and how long does it take to get a result?

We’re using Minnesota Department of Health to process tests. They tell us we will get results within 72 hours at this time.

8) What are your key messages for this time?

With or without testing, what people can do is assume that the virus is here now. Take precautions as if you have been infected: Stay home, wash your hands often and well, avoid contact with others to limit your risk of getting or spreading the virus.


We encourage everyone to STAY HOME to limit their risk of catching or spreading the virus.

We encourage anyone who feels sick to CALL their clinic or Emergency Department to discuss their symptoms. In our system, a triage nurse helps determine the best location if the person needs to be seen.

9) Do you feel Northfield Hospital is prepared to handle a surge due to the pandemic?

Our team at NH+C is doing a remarkable job. We have an emergency response system in place that has helped to fast-track our readiness to react as needed.

NH+C’s procedures are based on CDC and MDH guidance, which continues to evolve rapidly. Our overarching goal in patient care: identify, isolate and inform.

Our plans are designed to protect the healthy at the same time that we care for the sick or injured.

Our community partners, our colleagues at larger healthcare systems and leaders within city and state government have all been very helpful as we prepare.

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