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Monument Health prepared for possible surge

As COVID-19 cases begin to increase in western South Dakota, Monument Health stands ready to handle a possible surge in patients.

Nicole Kerkenbush, Chief Nursing and Performance Officer, said surge planning has been conducted from a system perspective. “We’ve planned ahead for all markets, because we don’t know exactly where or when this might occur,” she said.

Leaders are considering four components in their planning: staffing, equipment (e.g., ventilators, beds, and oxygen concentrators), supplies (e.g., personal protective equipment) and space. “Being confident about one or two of those components is not enough; we have to think about all four,” Nicole said. “All four are important to ensure the safety of our patients, caregivers and physicians and to be able to deliver the quality of care our community deserves.”

Members of the Rapid City Hospitalist Team tour a surge space at Rapid City Hospital.


Monument Health’s COVID-19 Pandemic Plan details surge plan efforts for all of its hospitals. While leaders have been using predictive models to guide these plans, Nicole stresses that the plans need to be modified regularly due to new information. The organization is working with state and county officials, as well as the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, to constantly refine plans based on new information. Leaders have planned for everything from a possible vaccine to ensuring proper staffing should caregivers become ill themselves.

There have been several news stories highlighting some of the grim conditions caregivers and providers in other states have dealt with, including lack of PPE and taking on 18-hour shifts. “It’s important for people to know – that’s not what we’re going to be doing here,” Nicole said.

The organization does have a plan for going off-campus if necessary, but Nicole is confident that all Monument Health hospitals can handle an influx of patients. “We’ve expanded our abilities in all of our markets to bring in resources to care for more patients than normal. Our main focus is to take care of patients within our organization.”

So many caregivers and physicians have been involved in the day-to-day planning efforts, including frontline caregivers, providers, specialty areas, ancillary services, leaders, etc. Many community partners have also been heavily involved in making sure our response efforts are as strong as possible.

“Thank you to everyone who has offered to help, whether you’ve helped move beds, have provided expertise within your specialty area, or temporarily taken on a new role,” Nicole said. We’ve shown our communities that we can adapt and that we’re ready for whatever comes our way.”

If you haven’t had a chance, watch the recent surge space video on Monument Health’s YouTube page.

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