COMMUNICATIONS AND NEWS FROM THE WEEK: January 19th, 2024
Meetings and Announcements:
- The next City Council meeting will be Monday, January 22nd. We will have a workshop where we will meet the new owner of the Sears building. He will share his plan for the building/property. Start time will be determined next week and included in the Council packet. The workshop will begin at 6:30 pm.
In the news:
Prefab ward brought in by truck to ease ER crowding at Maplewood hospital
The end of the pandemic has offered no respite for emergency departments, forcing creative solutions to rising patient demand.
By Jeremy Olson Star Tribune
JANUARY 18, 2024 — 6:15AM
CARLOS GONZALEZ, STAR TRIBUNE
Certified carpenter Craig Huebschmann worked on a door at the new short-stay observation unit on Wednesday at St. John’s Hospital in Maplewood, Minn. The prefabricated unit was built quickly in 10 months to reduce overcrowding in the hospital’s emergency room.
The latest solution to chronic overcrowding of Minnesota emergency rooms was built in Wisconsin, delivered by truck to Maplewood and attached to St. John's Hospital.
The Short-Stay Observation Unit was unveiled Thursday to provide faster care to patients who often wait for hours or receive emergency treatment in hallways or lobbies.
The 16-bed unit will open Monday and specialize in patients who need a day or two of tests rather than prolonged hospitalizations and treatment, said Dr. Will Nicholson, vice president of medical affairs for M Health Fairview's East Metro hospitals.
Those patients can clog up hospital space because they wait in ERs for testing and end up getting admitted to inpatient beds intended for sicker patients, he said. "It's all about exactly what the patients need, exactly when they need it. That pushed us to look differently at our space and how we're going to build things."
Hospital leaders had hoped that pressure on their ERs would ease after the pandemic — and return to the old, manageable waves of flu infections in the winter and accidents and injuries in the summer. Instead, patient demand has increased by as much as 10% per year at most metro-area hospitals and at some rural Minnesota hospitals.
United Hospital's ER in St. Paul treated 5,500 patients in December, the busiest month it has ever recorded. The month was a convergence of COVID-19, flu, opioid overdoses, psychiatric crises, heart attacks and other conditions that are common to an aging population, said Dr. Kelsey Echols, the ER's medical director.
United Hospital's nearly empty waiting room Wednesday morning was deceptive, because more than half of the beds inside the ER were full with so-called "boarding" patients who couldn't be transferred to inpatient beds because none was open. When new patients arrived in the afternoon with urgent but not life-threatening problems, they had to wait for ER space to open up.
"I'm not sure the public is aware of how much strain the ERs are under," Echols said.
Nursing homes with post-hospital rehab programs have closed or contracted in Minnesota in recent years, leaving hospitals stuck with patients who can't be discharged until they have access to those services. Hospital leaders said they expect the backlog to continue even if new rehab options emerge, because Minnesota's aging population will have more medical needs in the coming decades.
Allina Health's Mercy Hospital ER in Coon Rapids has responded to persistent overcrowding by treating patients in hallways and waiting areas, which now have assigned names to reduce confusion.
United added a "fast-track" unit in its ER in 2017 to hasten treatment of less severe problems such as wrist sprains or pink-eye, but leaders of the Allina hospital are discussing a "super-track" unit where patients in need of simple tests or evaluations could receive them quickly and then wait for results, Echols said.
St. John's shares the same challenges as other hospitals, including the nurse staffing shortages since the pandemic that have prevented them from opening all their beds to patients. But the 1980s-era hospital also lacks the wide-open designs and space of more modern or renovated medical facilities.
The addition of its own fast-track unit helped last year, but patients still sat in every corner of the St. John's ER waiting room Wednesday afternoon.
On-site construction of the new short-stay unit would have taken a year or two and disrupted hospital operations, said Danielle Gathje, vice president of operations for M Health Fairview's East Metro hospitals. Instead, the health system hired The Boldt Company to build 90% of the facility in Appleton, Wis.
Trucks brought the unit last fall in 16 pieces that were then linked together at the hospital. Construction finished in a rapid 10 months, Gathje said.
Short-stay treatment already is happening out of necessity in the St. John's ER, where caregivers try to hasten patient care by ordering tests and treatments that usually occur on inpatient floors. Moving these patients to the new unit should free up ER beds and reduce wait times, Nicholson said.
The expansion will buy time, but Nicholson of M Health Fairview said hospitals need help from clinics and outpatient providers to address the expanding medical needs of an aging population. Patients struggle to make timely appointments with family doctors, especially if they have health problems at night or on weekends, which result in mild flare-ups of conditions such as congestive heart failure becoming major problems.
"If you can't get them in at the first sign of their [heart failure] exacerbation, and you wait an extra week or five days or whatever, a preventable thing becomes an emergency," he said.
Jeremy Olson is a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter covering health care for the Star Tribune. Trained in investigative and computer-assisted reporting, Olson has covered politics, social services, and family issues.
3M's earplug settlement on track as veterans and service members opt in to $6B deal
An attorney for the plaintiffs, now numbering over 276,000, said they believe the 98% participation threshold to uphold the deal will soon be met.
By Brooks Johnson Star Tribune
JANUARY 16, 2024 — 3:26PM
ANTHONY SOUFFLE, STAR TRIBUNE
3M headquarters in Maplewood.
More than 30,000 military veterans and service members have formally agreed to 3M's settlement over allegedly faulty earplugs, prompting 3M to issue $253 million in payments earlier than expected.
The payments will be made by the end of the month to several thousand plaintiffs who were preparing to go to trial as the settlement was drafted and "have now agreed to participate in the settlement and release their claims," 3M said in a news release this week.
3M previously set aside $250 million in initial payments for more than 30,000 claimants at the end of December.
The milestone is significant because a nearly unanimous level of acceptance is needed from the 276,000 claimants in order for the $6 billion settlement, announced last summer, to be valid.
"We are pleased with 3M's decision to move up this payment and appreciate its commitment to the resolution of these claims," an attorney for the plaintiffs, Bryan Aylstock, said Tuesday. "So far, support for the settlement has been overwhelming and we expect to meet and indeed exceed the 98% participation threshold provided for in the settlement agreement in the coming weeks."
The Maplewood-based company announced the settlement in August after nearly five years of litigation amassed into one of the largest mass torts in U.S. history.
More than a quarter-million veterans and active service members blamed hearing damage on Combat Arms earplugs, made by 3M subsidiary Aearo Technologies and sold to the military from 1999 to 2015. 3M, which acquired Aearo in 2008, maintained the earplugs were safe when used properly.
3M says the settlement "has received strong and widespread support from claimants and the broader military community." The company can walk away from the remaining settlement payments if the 98% participation threshold is not met, though 3M is not required to do so.
Earlier this month, a federal judge signed off on 3M's plan to issue $1 billion in stock to help pay for the settlement. Payments will be made in phases through 2029.
The larger settlement 3M announced last year, involving PFAS contamination in drinking water, heads to a final hearing next month. The class-action deal with public water systems is worth up to $12.5 billion.
That settlement also requires a certain percentage of claimants to participate, but that threshold is not public. According to court filings, 170 valid opt-outs were received out of more than 14,000 potential class members.
"The relatively small number of opt-outs and overwhelming class member participation in the settlement ... demonstrates overall support for the settlement," attorneys for the water systems wrote last month.
The judge overseeing the case previously warned skittish cities and public utilities to accept the settlement or risk languishing in litigation into the 2030s.
Brooks Johnson is a business reporter covering Minnesota’s food industry, 3M and manufacturing trends.
firstname.lastname@example.org 612-673-4229 readbrooks
MnDOT Highway 36 Multimodal Corridor Study Update
MnDOT is studying Highway 36 from I-35W to English Street to better understand the needs of people who travel along Highway 36, as well as those who cross it.
This study is looking at vehicle, pedestrian, and bicycle traffic needs. Currently, the study team is refining alternatives and performing technical analysis for each alternative. This works looks at impacts to level of service and travel time along Highway 36. Additionally, each alternative is looking at how the alternatives improve pedestrian and bicycle safety and comfort levels when crossing Highway 36. The following are upcoming public engagement events:
- Community pop-up
- Monday, Feb 12 | 10:00 a.m. - noon
- Keystone Community Services at Roseville Public Library
- Community Pop-up
- Saturday, Feb 17 | 10:00 a.m. - noon Menards Maplewood
- Public Meeting
- Saturday, March 2 |10:00 a.m. - 1:00 p.m. Rosedale Center
- Virtual Public Meeting
- Thursday, March 7 | noon – 2:00 p.m.
- via Zoom
- Online Survey Closes on Friday, March 15
The following is a link to MnDOT’s project webpage:
Hwy 36 Maplewood to Roseville study - MnDOT (state.mn.us)
Maplewood Skating Rinks
This has been one of the most challenging outdoor ice rink seasons on record but the Park Maintenance Crew has been working overtime to get our main rinks ready for this weekend! The warming houses at Afton Heights, Wakefield, Four Seasons and Gethsemane will be open Friday - Sunday and staff will continue to maintain the ice as long as possible. Skating Rinks | Maplewood, MN (maplewoodmn.gov)
Upcoming Natural Resources Programming at The Nature Center
Tree & Shrub Care and Pruning Basics, Saturday, February 3, 10:00 am - noon: Discover the basics of tree care from choosing the correct species, planting correctly to pruning for health and structural strength. Learn how to prune native shrubs in your rain garden for natural attractive form, plant health and flower / fruit production. Recommended for those replacing ash trees lost to EAB, maintaining rain gardens or planting for pollinators. Class includes indoor presentations and outside pruning practice. Dress for the weather; wear sturdy shoes for a short hike. Bring your own garden gloves and favorite sharp pruners. Meet at Maplewood Nature Center, 2659 7th St E, 55119. Use this link to register: Activity detail | ActiveNet - Online Recreation Activities (activecommunities.com)
Buckthorn Pop-up programs: Friday, January 26 and Friday February 9, 10:00am – 12pm at the Nature Center. Learn to confidently identify buckthorn, how to cut and treat buckthorn, warm up by the fire or inside with buckthorn walking stick crafts and hot chocolate. Bring warm gloves and dress for the weather. Presented by our AMPACT Community Forestry member. No registration necessary.
Arbor Day Tree Sale
Online ordering starts March 4, at 8:00 am
Even though the City removes diseased or dying trees from parks and boulevards, residential property trees make up a considerable portion of our urban forest and hold the greatest potential to maintain our tree canopy. Maplewood is teaming up with Tree Trust, a local non-profit, subsidizing tree costs for our residents to plant on Maplewood properties.
o A variety of species, including at least one fruit tree
o Trees range from 4’-12’ tall
o Residents may order up to 2 trees
Available trees may be viewed online early, starting February 26. Online orders will start 8:00am March 4 and continue through May 3, or until sold out. Some species sell out in hours; order early for best selection.
Order via mail: For those without computer access, beginning February 12, pick up an order form at City Hall or call 651-249-2111 to request a form by mail. Forms are due to Tree Trust by 4:00pm February 28.
Tree pick up:
You will receive a postcard with pickup instructions. Pickup will be on Saturday, May 18 (9:00am - noon) or Monday, May 20 (5:00-7:00 pm) at the Public Works Building, 1902 County Road B East. If unable to pick up on these dates, arrange for someone to pick up for you. Trees not picked up will be forfeited.
For details or to order a tree, visit: www.maplewoodmn.gov/treesale
Harvest Park Native Seed Garden Agreement
The Harvest Park Native Seed Garden is located on 1.5 acres on the north side of Harvest Park. The seed garden incorporates a mix of native forbs and grasses, designed to facilitate the harvesting of seed from the plants to use in future restoration projects.
The City entered into a Memorandum of Understanding with Urban Roots in 2019 to establish and maintain the native seed garden. Urban Roots builds healthy, vibrant communities through food, conservation, and youth development. In addition to planting and maintaining the garden, the MOU outlines that once the garden is established Urban Roots will explore opportunities for employing Maplewood youth, collaborate with the City on programs and events at the garden, and provide signage.
Beginning in 2022, Urban Roots has offered paid internships to Maplewood youth and coordinated several open houses and service projects at the garden. In 2024, Urban Roots will install educational signage that details the purpose of the garden and benefits of the native plants to the environment.
Because of the successful operations of the garden, Maplewood has extended the MOU an additional year, expiring December 2024.
This is the news for the week. As always call or email if you have any concerns or questions with this content or upcoming City Council meeting.