SEMC, Lifetime Eyecare Center, Pollard Dental Clinic, and Curtis & Larson Dental Office resume offering services.

On May 5, in his daily briefing, Governor Walz announced an Executive Order that provided “a roadmap for safely restarting elective surgeries.” His office said the action would allow hospitals, ambulatory surgical centers, and clinics — whether veterinary, medical, or dental — to resume many currently-delayed procedures, “once facilities have developed criteria for determining which procedures should proceed during the COVID-19 pandemic and provided a plan to maintain a safe environment for facility staff, patients, and visitors.”

The order applied to the eyecare and dental offices in Sleepy Eye, plus SEMC. The Herald-Dispatch contacted each of these providers for an overview of their plans. All are ready to start seeing patients, while paying close attention to the safe environment guidelines.

Dr. Jim Hutchins, Lifetime Eyecare Center, said they have a detailed written reopening plan, for routine services, to address the needed protective procedures and protective equipment that must be in place.

“I’ve been providing emergency and urgent eyecare throughout the lockdown,” said Hutchins, “but had postponed any eye care that could safely be postponed — mainly because of the severe shortage of PPEs.”

Hutchins said they are resuming routine eyecare, but at a slower pace — with only one patient in the office at a time, and to allow extra time for sanitizing between patients. He said staff will assist with all frame selection, rather than having patients browse the frames themselves, as they need to be disinfected after worn or touched.

Face masks, for patients and staff, will be worn in Lifetime Eyecare Center. Health screening prior to being seen, handwashing, and proper social distancing are all things patients will experience.

Dr. Hutchins said patients are currently being contacted to schedule or confirm appointments.

“With Governor Walz opening up dental care May 11, it meant that we can now offer more services than just emergency care,” said Dr. Jason Pollard of Pollard Dental Clinic. “Our top priority is always for the safety of our patients and staff. We will be following all recommendations set forth by the Minnesota Board of Dentistry and the CDC, along with the assistance of the Minnesota Dental Association.”

Pollard also mentioned the importance of ensuring they have an adequate supply of personal protective equipment (PPE) to provide patient care. He said their office will prioritize which procedures require immediate appointments and schedule accordingly.

“We plan to change our waiting room to allow for social distancing,” he said, “as well as staggering patient appointments. We are requesting ‘patients only’ in our waiting room and no additional guests. Before patient appointments we will do a verbal health screenings over the phone and again as the patient comes in for the appointment.”

Pollard said patients, as well as staff, will have their temperatures checked daily and if either presents with a fever or any other COVID symptoms they will be asked to leave the office.

“We plan to re-open slowly, with immediate needs first, and hope to transition into full capacity in the next two to three weeks,” said Pollard. “As always, patients who have any questions should feel free to call the dental office.”

Dr. Greg Curtis said throughout the COVID-19 state mandated dental office shut down, the Curtis & Larson Dental Office dealt with dental emergency phone calls via teledentistry, while treating the most severe emergencies in the office. They’ve also been anticipating and preparing for new guidelines when non-emergency elective dental care would be allowed to start again.

In agreement with Dr. Hutchins and Dr. Pollard, Dr. Curtis said the initial hurdle to overcome was the difficulty in obtaining the required masks for the staff to wear while providing various treatments. He said his office now has the N95 masks for staff safety, along with clear plastic face shields, keeping in line with the Minnesota Board of Dentistry’s requirements for staff safety.

Curtis & Larson Dental Office has implemented a number of changes. Patients will be asked some health screening questions on the phone, while making appointments, such as if the patient is feeling ill, has a cough or fever or has been in contact with someone diagnosed with Covid-19. The magazines were removed from the waiting room, as they are difficult to clean and disinfect and aplexiglass barrier was installed between the waiting room and front office and have ample locations with hand sanitizer for our patients safety. They also ask that only the patient enter the office, with any traveling companions to remain in the car.

Dr. Curtis said his hygiene department is available for teeth cleanings and all tooth aches, chipped teeth or any dental pain can again be seen in the office.

“Our staff can give guidance if an issue needs to be addressed immediately or if it’s something that can be solved at a later date without causing further complications,” said Curtis. “We look forward to opening back up and serving the community by following the new safety guidelines outlined by the Minnesota Dental Association and the CDC. Staff and patient safety are a main priority while COVID-19 remains an issue.”

Sleepy Eye Medical Center will resume elective procedures and services next week.

“We are excited to get back to seeing our patients, but we must do so responsibly, with safety as our first concern,” said Kevin Sellheim, SEMC Administrator.

At SEMC, elective surgical procedures, along with ancillary department services, are scheduled to resume, including rehabilitation, pain management, imaging services, sleep studies, and other medical procedures. Patients who have been waiting to be rescheduled for such services will be contacted. In addition, well-child visits, physical exams and other clinic appointments will resume.

“We’ve developed a strategic plan which prioritizes the health and safety of facility staff, patients and visitors, while ensuring and safeguarding adequate resources and supplies for a possible surge of patients,” said Sellheim.

According to Sellheim, social distancing will continue to be enforced in waiting areas. During busy times, patients may be asked to wait in their vehicles following registration. In addition, patients are encouraged to call in advance before visiting SEMC.

“We also want to let our patients know that it may take some time to be scheduled as many are behind on routine visits and in need of care. We ask that you be patient with us as we navigate this new territory,” said Sellheim.

The pandemic is a fluid situation, which means the possibility for change in the healthcare system is ever present. For the latest news and updates from SEMC, visit