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Nursing home evacuating today, hospitals preparing

Clara Sellheim initially forgot her toothbrush Wednesday as she hustled to grab clothes, ice cream and her computer after being told she had to leave her residence at Moorhead's Eventide Living Center.

Sellheim, 84, is among roughly 400 residents being relocated from the facility in a proactive approach to "decrease the number of people we have to worry about in case the worst happens," said Jon Riewer, Eventide president.

"We just can't pick up and leave at the drop of a hat," he said.

Other area healthcare facilities are working with state officials to determine where to send residents if an evacuation is needed and to decrease the number of patients.

Residents living in senior housing or assisted living facilities at Eventide were given the option to leave on Tuesday. Families were notified Wednesday that if possible, they should try and pick up residents, Sellheim said.

"I wanted to stay as long as I could," the Cavalier, N.D., native said. "It was a little surprising that we had to leave right now."

Sellheim said she is OK with the relocation to her granddaughter's residence and hopes to hook up her computer and get back on Facebook to let people know she's alright.

About 195 Eventide nursing home residents will begin being moved today to area facilities.

"These moves are not fun, they're not painless," Riewer said. "We're dealing with very vulnerable people, most of which are not ambulatory."

The facility did not evacuate during the 1997 flood, but changed its approach after looking at events such as Hurricane Katrina, Riewer said, adding it's not worth a gamble.

"There just isn't really any good excuse for us that we can see to wait this out," Riewer said.

Fargo's Veterans Affairs Hospital is taking similar measures, transferring 14 residents to St. Cloud, Minn., on Tuesday.

The facility currently has fewer than 20 patients with one remaining in intensive care. Patients have also been sent to Sioux Falls, S.D., and Minneapolis, Director Robert McDivitt said. If remaining patients need to be moved, some could be transported in vans, he said.

North Dakota hospitals and health care facilities are looking to get help from Minnesota and South Dakota in terms of ambulances to move people and beds for them in case of an evacuation, said Loreeta Canton, spokeswoman for the North Dakota Department of Health.

For now, authorities suggest facilities cancel or postpone any elective procedures and send patients or residents home with family where possible for the next week or so to keep numbers down, said Ruth Bachmeier, Fargo Cass Public Health director

Spokespersons for Innovis, MeritCare, and Prairie St. John's medical facilities said they are trying to keep patient numbers down and have evacuation plans in place that would include having updated medical information sent with patients.

Bethany Homes in Fargo is not relocating its roughly 375 residents, but has an evacuation plan in place.

The facility is bringing in extra food, water and pharmacy supplies to last a week and created an evacuation plan for pets Wednesday, said Grant Richardson, senior executive for development and community relations.

Sandbagging around electrical and mechanical areas will begin today to prevent sewer backup.

The facility is on fairly high ground with parts of the building going up nine stories, Richardson said.

"If it gets that high we're in real trouble," he said.