As a longtime veteran in the medical community, Dr. Paul Mittelstadt knows a thing or two about the importance of maintaining the integrity of public health. A board-certified physician of over 40 years, Mittelstadt currently works as a full-time staff doctor in emergency medicine at Cuyuna Regional Medical Center in Crosby, Minnesota.
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, Mittelstadt has seen firsthand how this pandemic has affected those afflicted.
“I think at our smaller institution, we’ve been holding up well,” said Mittelstadt. “But as far as the staff in the E.R. [goes], we’re holding up well. We’ve gotten used to the fact that the daily requirements [for] personal protective equipment changes from almost day to day, what is needed, what sanitary expectations we need to [follow].”
Mittelstadt said that Cuyuna regularly keeps up in following guidelines set forth by the CDC and the Minnesota Department of Health. Mittelstadt praised Minnesota’s leadership in their quick, measured response to the pandemic.
“I think the biggest thing we have difficulty with is dealing with the anxiety of the patient population,” he said. “I think our state overall is handling it much better than a lot of other places.”
Mittelstadt, who previously practiced medicine at St. Croix Medical Regional Medical Center before joining Cuyuna, said that his current employer is doing everything to help curb the spread of COVID-19 and protecting patients and staff alike.
“The testing still takes two to three days at this point,” said Mittelstadt. “If you’re COVID-suspect, you get the instructions to go home, quarantine yourself until you get the actual test results. If you’re ill enough, they have special units, beds in the ICU where the patients are placed.”
The Crosby location is currently restricting visitors and conducting symptom screenings for anyone who enters the facilities. On a personal level, Mittelstadt said that working as an ER physician for four decades has rendered his anxiety levels regarding COVID-19 to be not as high as other people’s.
“As long as you go by the procedures that are set up as far as sanitary conditions and being safe when seeing patients, you keep your contact to a minimum,” he said. “When I’m done with my shift, I go home. I pretty much keep myself isolated here at home.”
Even when he and his partner engage in limited, socially distancing socialization with a very small number of friends, Mittelstadt says that the isolation can be challenging.
“The first week when the [stay-at-home order] came on, that was a tough week because everybody took it so seriously. Nobody wanted to meet with anybody,” he said. “It’s just being somewhat rational about how much you’re going to quarantine yourself. I’m a social person, I need to be with people.”
Mittelstadt mentioned that although Crosby is a small town, the residents there have been extremely appreciative of Cuyuna’s staff and their efforts during this pandemic.
“Of course, it’s a smaller town, but there’s virtually not a day that some restaurant doesn’t send over food or desserts or something for the whole staff to have right there in the ER,” he said. “There’s been a greater appreciation for the health care [profession].”
Mittelstadt has praised Cuyuna’s overall response and practices in fighting this virus.
“We have daily meetings about it, just strategy meetings, because everything is still in a state of flux,” said Mittelstadt. “The medical staff is adjusted pretty well to having COVID patients. There’s always the initial anxiety about how to treat the first two, three, four COVID patients. So there’s always that anxiety. But now that the initial learning curve is done with, I think our staff is doing very well as far as treating the COVID patients that we’ve kept.”
Mittelstadt’s life has been dedicated to helping others, whether it’s being a longtime scholarship donor to LGBTQ students or keeping people healthy in his capacity as a doctor. And he knows that in order to help flatten the curve of COVID-19, we need to do all we can to make that a reality.
“Do what has been highly recommended,” he said. “Wear your mask. [When in] public, stay six feet away from other people.”
He also stressed exercising one’s due diligence in keeping the elderly and immunocompromised safe.
“You’d just hate to be an asymptomatic carrier and give it to them,” said Mittelstadt. “It’d be a potential death sentence for them. You just need to be careful with them.”