Senator Thune talks with medical staff about COVID-19 response


MITCHELL, S.D. (KELO) – Since the COVID-19 pandemic started, health care providers have been on the frontlines, helping people who test positive. Thursday Senator John Thune sat down with some of those medical workers in Mitchell to get an idea of what they’re dealing with daily.

It’s been an exhausting and scary few months for medical staff throughout South Dakota due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Medical professionals sat down with Senator John Thune and Avera Queen of Peace administrators to discuss some of the challenges they face each day.

Telehealth was one of the biggest topics.

“We have seen tremendous growth in telemedicine during the pandemic and Avera has one of the most robust telemedicine systems in the world and we have seen exponential growth during this time,” regional president and CEO of Avera Queen of Peace Hospital, Doug Ekeren said.

“The key to that is making sure that those services are reimbursed, which is being done now, but what we want to try to do is make sure that is extended because we talked about how healthcare delivery and the model of caring for people in rural areas, in particular, is changing and telehealth is becoming much more valuable,” Senator John Thune said.

Kids and teachers going back to school was another big issue during today’s discussion. Senator Thune says testing is important.

“I am a big believer that we need massive amounts of tests until we have a vaccine, if we are going to open successfully, particularly schools,” Thune said. “If there’s one thing the federal government can do it’s help support the efforts that are being made at the state level and with our health care providers to ensure that we have the adequate number of tests out there.”

He said medical providers have been offering guidance to help get kids back in school.

“This was an opportunity for me to hear firsthand from the people that are on the frontlines dealing with the health care challenges we face across South Dakota,” Thune said.

Now he’ll take that information back to Washington.

Thune says they also discussed the workforce and how to get more people trained in essential fields.

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