The proposed Litchfield Wellness Center will be a substantial taxpayer funded investment that has the potential to be a tremendous asset to not only the city of Litchfield, Litchfield Public Schools system, but also Meeker County and our region.
Given what we have been through with the COVID-19 pandemic, a critical concern that my elderly mother and I share for this public investment to go forward is to make sure it maintains the integrity of being a true wellness center. Her idea was that safeguards need to be in place so that regardless of which entity manages this facility, be it Litchfield Public Schools, the city of Litchfield or both, that a high priority is given to public health authority whether it be Centers for Disease Control, Minnesota Department of Health or, especially, our local physicians who practice medicine at Meeker Memorial Hospital.
Why do we stress a critical need for public health safeguards at our proposed Litchfield Wellness Center? Last fall our health care providers locally and regionally were especially stressed, being at capacity or overcapacity treating patients who had contracted COVID-19. Not once, but twice, our local physicians from Meeker Memorial Hospital went before the Litchfield Public Schools board and asked for a temporary mask mandate through the holidays to help slow the spread of COVID-19. The information and stories our local physicians shared before the school board were powerful, and I would encourage you to watch the videos posted on the Litchfield Public Schools website.
Given the extreme circumstances with our local public health crises, their request was, in my opinion, reasonable. Twice, unfortunately, by majority vote, the Litchfield School Board declined to implement the temporary mask mandate. I personally was shocked and appalled each time. As a result of those votes, predictably and sadly, misinformed poor choices resulted in further stressing our healthcare system, resulting in more tragic preventable suffering, with some who ended up being COVID-long haulers with chronic long-term health issues and deaths.
At least from my perspective, those two votes also undermined the credibility of our local physicians, who have invested years obtaining their education, working in medical residency, building their practices with the experience gained, continuing their education and being in the trenches providing care. It was most likely demoralizing, which places our community and others in Greater Minnesota at greater risk of making it more difficult to recruit and retain health care professionals.
Looking forward, we have an opportunity to learn from what we have experienced and build in safeguards while supporting our local health care providers to minimize risk if we have a localized public health concern or the next pandemic which is inevitable.
We are looking at a wide range of intergenerational cradle-to-grave membership, many of which would benefit the most from those safeguards. This will help maximize the opportunities in membership whose paid fees will provide the revenue for operational costs of the wellness center.
Please voice your support for public health safeguards as mentioned to help ensure this will be a win-win for our community and future prospective members. You can contact your Litchfield City Council or School Board member and/or give feedback at the remaining public input meetings at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, May 5, in the LHS Commons (use LHS Main Door). The final meeting will be 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, May 10, at Litchfield City Hall.
Miranda Gohn, Litchfield