‘The heroes are wearing camouflage’: Kentucky National Guard easing strain on regional hospitals

Published: Sep. 22, 2021 at 6:19 PM EDT
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MOREHEAD/PRESTONSBURG. Ky. (WSAZ) - Three weeks ago, more than 100 members of the Kentucky National Guard were deployed to four hospitals across the state. On Sept. 13, 310 more guardsmen were deployed to 21 additional hospitals.

“They have actually got us through,” said Donald Lloyd, president and CEO of St. Claire Healthcare.

St. Claire Regional Medical Center was one of the first hospitals to receive guardsmen. Lloyd credits them for getting doctors, nurses, and even the patients through the most significant rise of COVID cases the hospital has ever seen.

“To us, those heroes are wearing camouflage all over our campus right now,” Lloyd said.

Lloyd says the hospital has 15 guardsmen and they have been instrumental in managing and facilitating care to a large number of critically ill patients.

He says they have managed logistic capabilities for medical re-supply and re-distribution, as well as freed up clinicians for patient care, and helped expand ICU capacity several times.

“Within a short six-hour window, those 15 guardsmen and women actually established and helped us deploy an entirely new ICU here in the medical center to handle the overflow of critically ill patients,” Lloyd said. “We could have not executed and handled the magnitude of this surge without their assistance, at least as effective as we believe we have.”

In Prestonsburg, Highlands ARH received National Guard members on Sept. 13. Community CEO Tim Hatfield says the soldiers are taking on non-medical services such as checking in patients, preparing food, cleaning and disinfecting, as well as helping maintenance crews.

“It’s made life a little bit easier during a surge of the inpatient COVID cases, as well as some of our staff getting sick with COVID,” Hatfield said.

Hatfield says the help from the Guard members allows staff who were pulled to work support jobs, to go back into their regular positions helping patients.

“I think it really sends a strong message as to what we’re going through,” Hatfield said. “I think most people are really tired of hearing about COVID, and I get that. But, at the same time, the second surge for us, as well as most hospitals in Kentucky and United States has been very significant.”

The assignment for the Guard members at St. Claire Regional Medical Center ends Sept. 30. Lloyd says he does not know yet if it will be extended.

Hatfield says he is going to request an additional two weeks at Highlands ARH when their assignment ends Oct. 13.

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