Indiana National Guard hires hospitals to help fight COVID

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News that members of the Indiana National Guard have been deployed to help stressed out hospital staff sparked images of camouflage-clad nurses in heavy work boots slipping into patient rooms to replace nurses.

But that is not precisely what is happening.

Following: Indiana surpasses 15,000 COVID-19 deaths since pandemic began last year

For starters, members of the Indiana Guard deployed to hospitals in Indiana wear scrubs. They perform a variety of tasks to help ease the workload of hospital staff who have been dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic for over a year and a half.

Here’s what you need to know.

Which hospitals have requested an Indiana National Guard team?

So far, Ascension Health St Vincent on 86th Street, Deaconness Midtown and Deaconess Hospitals in Evansville and Clark Memorial Hospital in Jeffersonville have asked for help.

The Indiana National Guard has partnered with the Indiana Department of Health to create five teams of 10 members each, all fully vaccinated, Department of Health spokeswoman Megan Wade-Taxter said, in an email.

Why are members of the National Guard deployed in hospitals?

The Indiana Department of Health and the Indiana National Guard have teamed up to give hospitals extra hands. In recent weeks, hospitals have faced an increase in COVID-19 cases associated with an increase in the number of patients with other conditions.

Additionally, hospitals have struggled to maintain their workforce in recent years, an issue that dates back to before the start of the pandemic.

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“We felt this was a great way to take the strain off the staff who had been on the front line for 19 months,” said Terry Metzger, COO of Ascension St. Vincent Indiana. “It’s just a moral boost, having them around.

When else did the Guard contribute to the pandemic response?

Not at all. More than 1,500 members of the Indiana National Guard spent nearly three months helping in nursing homes from last fall to early January. They also helped distribute personal protective equipment at the start of the pandemic and helped a few sites in the Indiana Department of Corrections.

They also helped with pantries and vaccination and testing sites.

What are the members of the Guard doing in the hospital?

Currently, 15 members of the guard are helping in St. Vincent, Metzger said. Seven are doctors who help with tasks such as drawing blood, taking vital signs and helping transform patients, a task that can be critical for COVID-19 patients whose treatment includes lying on their stomach.

“They’ve been there side by side, with nurses leading the work but medics stepping in,” Metzger said.

The other eight members of the guard help with general support, laboratory management, nursing supplies and other duties.

Do immunization mandates play a role in this?

Staff shortages are plaguing hospitals even before the start of the pandemic.

Officials at two of the local hospitals where vaccination warrants have already gone into effect, Eskenazi Health and IU Health, said they had no plans to seek help from the National Guard at this time.

Saint-Vincent, where guards have been deployed locally, will require staff to be vaccinated, but the mandate will not take effect until mid-November.

What are other hospitals doing?

Community Health Network has not requested help from the Indiana National Guard at this time, but does not rule it out for the future, hospital spokeswoman Kris Kirschner said in an e- mail.

The hospital has an internal program called ‘Helping Hands’ in which anyone at managerial level or above has been invited to participate and help in areas in need such as environmental services, catering services and care. to patients, if applicable.

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St. Vincent has also increased employee wages three times since March, Metzger said. Employees received raises in March, bonuses in July, and then the hospital system just allocated an additional $ 26 million to its facilities in Indiana.

The delta surge appears to have peaked. Why get this help now?

As COVID-19 cases statewide decline statewide, the number of COVID patients at St. Vincent’s 86th Street Hospital has not declined, Metzger said, as this hospital takes the most complex cases across the state. Many of these patients require intensive care and face long hospital stays.

At this point, St Vincent has no plans to request additional guards at any of his other hospitals, Metzger said.

The 86th Street establishment, he added, was “the epicenter of need.”

Contact IndyStar reporter Shari Rudavsky at [email protected] Follow her on Facebook and on Twitter: @srudavsky.

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