National Guard steps in to alleviate pressure on hospitals

Massachusetts: An incoming tide of patients is slowly drowning UMass Memorial Medical Center, and the US military’s National Guard is working to plug the gaps. In wave after daily wave, the emergency crews pull up to the ambulance bay, dropping off patients for which there is no room.

“It’s just the perfect storm for a nightmare here in the emergency department,” says Dr. Eric Dickson, the CEO of the hospital and an emergency physician.

The main hospital in central Massachusetts is already over capacity at 115%, and the numbers are only expected to rise in the coming weeks as the Omicron variant spreads rapidly across the region.

The most severe of those cases, the hospital warns, will show up over the next two weeks, a period when the hospital is already short-staffed. About 500 people are out with Covid, mostly medical staff who have tested positive for Covid or are exhibiting symptoms.

Dickson calls it the “wild card” for the hospital — an unknown that will affect the hospital’s very ability to treat incoming patients. The space, he says, can be found. But is there enough staff to allow the hospital to function?

The Massachusetts National Guard is part of that solution, deploying to hospitals just after Christmas.

National Guard medical teams are now deployed in 10 states, according to the Army Northern Command, helping in hospitals and medical facilities. Some 13,000 Guard members have helped across the country at vaccine sites and more, according to Maj. Gen. Jill Faris, director of the Office of the Joint Surgeon General at the National Guard Bureau.

“We’ve done just about anything affiliated and associated with Covid support. We’ve seen it happen in all of our states and territories,” Faris said.

Image courtesy of (Image Courtesy: ABC News)

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