Five service members with the Ohio National Guard are serving as support staff at Southeastern Ohio Regional Medical Center to allow the hospital’s caregivers to focus on delivering quality care to patients.
Gov. Mike DeWine recently ordered the mobilization of an additional 1,250 members of the Ohio Nation Guard to support hospitals with the most critical needs across the state.
The mobilization is a response to Ohio setting all-time highs for the total number of COVID-19 hospitalizations during the pandemic.
“We appreciate the efforts of Governor DeWine to deploy Ohio National Guard members across Ohio to assist hospitals including Southeastern Med,” said Wendy Elliott, Guernsey Health System president and CEO.
“Though our hospital has remained stable throughout the pandemic and continues to provide safe and high-quality care for our community, our associates are feeling the strain of this present surge. The support of the Ohio National Guard will provide a welcome relief and we’re very grateful to accept this resource.”
As of Jan. 12, the Cambridge-Guernsey County Health Department had reported 8,493 COVID-19 cases in the county including 623 hospitalizations and 111 deaths.
Noble County health officials reported 2,635 coronavirus cases with an additional 164 hospitalizations, many of which occurred at Southeastern Med, and 51 deaths.
COVID-19 case totals in counties surrounding Guernsey and Noble include 20,445 in Muskingum; 17,916 in Tuscarawas; 12,602 in Belmont; 9,976 in Washington; 6,593 in Coshocton; 2,832 in Monroe; 2,629 in Harrison; and 2,605 in Morgan.
Cases in those eight counties have resulted in 4,104 hospitalizations at various facilities in those areas and 1,382 deaths, according to the Ohio Department of Health website.
According to Guernsey Health System, the guard members will not provide direct patient care, but will providing non-clinical support to care teams in various areas at the hospital.
"None of the National Guard members are clinical workers, so they will not be providing direct care of the patients," said Teratia Welch, marketing and communications manager at Southeastern Med.
"They will help with stocking and delivering supplies, assisting with patient needs to include sitting with patients in their rooms, answering telephones and other duties, as needed."
The National Guard members arrived at the hospital Tuesday for orientation and started working with staff and patients on Wednesday.
"Guard members are slated to assist at Southeastern Med for one month, however, assignments will be continually evaluated during that time and shortened or lengthened as needed," said Elliott.
Statewide, National Guard members are also offering support at testing locations being operated in partnership with hospitals and health care networks. The goal is to divert testing traffic from hospital emergency rooms as the demand for testing is high.
President Joe Biden recently announced plans to send military medical personnel to hospitals in Ohio and five other states.
Starting this week, 1,000 medics with the US military will arrive at hospitals struggling to cover staffing shortages amid surges in the COVID-19 pandemic currently led by the Omicron variant.
Authorities on Thursday identified Cleveland Clinic as a location in Ohio that will receive help from the military medics.
Ohio is experiencing its highest COVID-19 admission rates since the start of the pandemic and many of those hospitalizations have been reported in the northern region of the state.
Biden has also announced plans to increase the number of rapid, at-home COVID-19 tests to be distributed to Americans to 1 billion. The distribution will also include N95 masks to help fight the spike in cases.
The president continues to encourage Americans to get vaccinated, saying Thursday this is "a pandemic of the unvaccinated."
While Biden and health officials acknowledge both vaccinated and unvaccinated people are testing positive for COVID-19, those vaccinated are experiencing, for the most part, less severe symptoms, hospitalizations and death.
For more information about the support of the Ohio National Guard during the COVID-19 pandemic visit coronavirus.ohio.gov/wps/portal/gov/covid-19/dashboards/other-resources/ong
This article originally appeared on The Daily Jeffersonian: National Guard soldiers serving as support staff at Southeastern Ohio Med