Dealing with a pandemic puzzle

Sanford Tracy staff has kept on their toes since COVID-19 hit the area


By Per Peterson

Sanford Tracy CEO Stacy Barstad used the word “scared” when thinking back to March, when it became clear that a global pandemic would have a profound impact on Tracy.

In an interview with the Tracy Area Headlight Herald last Wednesday, Barstad, who has been with Sanford Tracy for 22 years, including 11 as CFO and 11 as CEO, said it was the unknowns that kept Sanford employees wondering what the future would bring.

“At that time there were a lot of unknowns,” she said. “Front line staff, and all the staff who work here … they were scared. They were scared of what was all going to happen. But everyone stepped up and knew that our patients came first. But to say that there wasn’t some fear here, that wouldn’t be right because no one knew exactly what was going on.”

Because a healthcare facility like Sanford is vastly different from other businesses and thus had to react differently to the outbreak, it was imperative for staff to continue to make Sanford a place that could be looked at as a safe haven for everyone.

“I feel all of our leaders here have done a tremendous job from the get-go of making sure that our facility, our staff, and our patients are safe,” said Barstad.

That was a challenge, she said, because every aspect surrounding COVID-19 was changing, almost by the hour — things like Personal Protective Equipment and how patients are screened.

“How we keep them safe coming in, and if we did have a COVID outbreak in Tracy, the planning — there were a lot of changes going on,” Barstad said.

Barstad’s administrative team relied on Sanford to provide all the information they needed as the ever-changing pandemic, and its effects, spread. She said nearly day-long, information-gathering meetings took place on a daily basis in mid-March.

“The biggest thing was to disseminate it to staff and keep the communication open so everybody knew what was going on,” she said. “But it got frustrating because it changed every day — the process, the policies. We made it clear that, ‘This will probably change tomorrow,’ and everybody went with it.”

Barstad said the frontline staff had to perform an important balancing act between reacting to COVID-19 and continuing to treat patients.

“They had to have the right PPE on to take care of the sick patients, who needed COVID testing or displayed symptoms — we followed all the protocols to eliminate exposure,” she said.

See this week’s Headlight Herald for more on this article.