The opening of the Tri-County COVID Medical Center has been delayed. Five area hospitals in Chippewa, Swift,, and Lac qui Parle Counties have been working hard to convert portions of the Prairie Correctional Facility in Appleton into a COVID-19 care center. The five hospitals involved in the project are Appleton Area Health, CCM Health of Montevideo, Johnson Memorial Health Services of Dawson, Madison Healthcare Services and Swift County Benson Health Services.

The opening of the Tri-County COVID Medical Center has been delayed. Five area hospitals in Chippewa, Swift,, and Lac qui Parle Counties have been working hard to convert portions of the Prairie Correctional Facility in Appleton into a COVID-19 care center. The five hospitals involved in the project are Appleton Area Health, CCM Health of Montevideo, Johnson Memorial Health Services of Dawson, Madison Healthcare Services and Swift County Benson Health Services.

The State Health Care Coordination Center made the decision to postpone the opening of the TCMC facility. Brian Lovdahl, CEO of CCM Health, said: “We were notified last Thursday evening that the State was now going to go through a process where they want facilities to ‘surge’ prior to utilizing Alternative Care sites.”

In other words, local hospitals must see a surge in confirmed COVID-19 cases before the State will make a determination to allow patients to be cared for at other sites such as TCMC.

Despite the decision, preparation work is ongoing at TCMC. “We are still readying the initial beds because we are confident that, at some point, we will need to utilize this building,” said Lovdahl.

According to Lovdahl, 15 engineers toured the facility this past weekend. “They seemed to be very impressed with how much we got done in six days,” he said. “That said, we were told it could take up to eight weeks to complete the licensing process.”

As the TCMC facility continues to be converted to hospital use, the five area hospitals are now left to prepare their own facilities for COVID-19 patients. Lovdahl said: “We are finalizing plans with our partners on how to take care of COVID-19 patients until TCMC is given the go-ahead by the State.”

Lovdahl wasn’t surprised by the State’s decision. “We were always aware that we needed State approval; it just so happened that we were ahead of where the State was with their plans. At the end of the day, with State involvement, this facility may serve a broader area and a larger role in fighting COVID-19.”