State officials met with leaders of Bismarck’s two largest hospital systems this weekend to discuss the availability of beds for COVID-19 patients as the state and Bismarck-Mandan area in particular continue to see a surge in coronavirus cases and an overall increase in COVID and non-COVID hospitalizations.

Interim State Health Officer Dirk Wilke, Department of Human Services Executive Director Chris Jones and the Governor’s Office met with Dr. Michael LeBeau, president of Sanford Health’s Bismarck region, and Kurt Schley, president and CEO of CHI St. Alexius Health, to review current bed availability and plans to handle additional patients if COVID-19 cases continue to rise.

“As our state continues to see record numbers of COVID-19 cases, it’s more important than ever that we understand the challenges facing our hospitals and caregivers to ensure that there is a bed available for every patient who needs one,” Gov. Doug Burgum said. “Working together, we can save lives and livelihoods, keep our schools and businesses open, protect those in our long-term care facilities and safeguard our health care workers who are so essential to the fight against COVID-19.”

“Meeting the needs of our patients and the communities we serve continues to be our highest priority at Sanford Health,” LeBeau said. “Like all hospitals across the state, we are experiencing high demand. We have capacity and staff to safely care for those who need us, while collaborating with partners across the state. Later this week, we will announce a plan to increase bed capacity at Sanford Medical Center in Bismarck. An increasing number of people are coming to Sanford with a variety of needs, including patients with COVID-19. Investing in our communities to keep people safe is our top priority.”

“We are committed to patient care, and we have adjusted operations to accommodate an increase in both COVID and non-COVID patients,” Schley said. “People can have confidence that the health care system in North Dakota is working together to ensure that every patient who needs care receives the highest quality service through this pandemic.”

In a joint statement, LeBeau and Schley said, “We can all do our part to help reduce pressure on the health care system by practicing social distancing, wearing a mask, washing hands frequently, avoiding large gatherings, getting a flu shot and following CDC and state guidance for isolating positive cases and quarantining close contacts.”