Hospitals receive staffing help amid latest COVID-19 wave: Snapshots from 6 states

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Amid the latest COVID-19 wave, U.S. hospitals and health systems are seeking staffing assistance to help free up resources for patient care and alleviate workforce strain.

Here are snapshots from six states where hospitals are receiving staffing help.

Note: This is not an exhaustive list.

Arkansas

Arkansas will receive a 20-person medical military team from the U.S. Department of Defense that will be sent to UAMS Medical Center in Little Rock to help with staffing, Gov. Asa Hutchinson said during a Sept. 8 media briefing. This team comprises 14 nurses, including four critical care nurses, as well as four physicians and two respiratory therapists.

"This is welcome assistance that will come, and this will add to the staffing capacity at UAMS that will help us to increase our capacity for managing both COVID and non-COVID emergencies and health needs," Mr. Hutchinson said.

Oregon

Jonathan Modie, an Oregon Health Authority spokesperson, confirmed to Becker's on Sept. 8 that National Guard members who served at Oregon State Hospital in June are being redeployed to the short-staffed psychiatric facility. 

Mr. Modie said the returning nine National Guard members would begin Sept. 8, with a one-day orientation, and could begin working on the hospital floor as early as Sept. 9.

He said about 15 more National Guard members would also start orientation Sept. 8, and after four days of orientation, they will complete nine days of onboarding related to basic nursing duties, including training on how to respond to behavioral emergencies. 

The members will help hospital staff serve meals, escort patients to treatment activities, provide activities on the unit and assist patients with daily living activities, while following hospital policies and procedures, Mr. Modie said.

Deployment of the National Guard members, which does not have a specified length of time, aims to ease the effects of a staffing shortage at Oregon State Hospital, which has campuses in Salem and Junction City. 

Tennessee

About 200 National Guard members are supporting 20 Tennessee hospitals, news channel WKRN reported Sept. 8. The members are supporting these hospitals in various areas.

"We have medics, we have some nurses as well that are working, but they're primarily medics we also have admin support and the admin support can do a wide range of patients care-type things under the supervision of a nurse," Lt. Col. Justin Olander, commander of Joint Task Force – Medical, which is responsible for the Tennessee National Guard's pandemic response, told WKRN.

National Guard members are deployed for two-week periods.

Wyoming

Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon said Sept. 8 that the state is using $30 million in federal funds to help address staffing strain in healthcare facilities, according to the Casper Star-Tribune.

In a statement cited by the newspaper, the governor said $20 million will be used on a "discretionary" basis by facilities to "fill staffing shortages, provide hazard pay and strengthen recruitment efforts for the state's existing healthcare workforce."  

Mr. Gordon said private hospitals and long-term care facilities may use the remaining $10 million to pay traveling medical staff through a contract with the state's hospital association.

Kentucky

A federal medical team arrived in Kentucky to support healthcare workers treating COVID-19 patients at St. Claire Regional Medical Center in Morehead, Gov. Andy Beshear said Sept. 5. 

The National Disaster Medical System Team, comprising a medical officer, physician assistant, nurse practitioner, supply officer, respiratory therapist, four registered nurses and three paramedics, arrived Sept. 4 at St. Claire and will assist through Sept. 17.

Federal team members can help with opening more available beds and boosting staffing and areas of specialty, including those offered by the hospital's respiratory team, and clinicians tasked with ventilator management, the governor's office said in a news release. The office said the team can also support emergency department operations.

Alabama

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey redistributed $12.3 million to address a nursing shortage.

The $12.3 million of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act is being redistributed to hire travel nurses to work in Alabama hospitals, WHNT-TV reported.

The Alabama Department of Public Health will work with the state's hospital association to develop a recruitment process.

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