Yakima hospital gets help from the National Guard

YAKIMA, Wash. — With a record number of staff out sick with COVID-19 or quarantining due to the surge of the Omicron variant, Yakima Valley Memorial Hospital is looking to the Washington National Guard for help.

“Our associate chief medical officer has been working here for 30 years and she has never seen the National Guard deployed here before,” YVMH Chief Medical Officer Marty Brueggemann said. “It just kind of highlights the significance of what we’re experiencing today.”

On Friday, the hospital had a record number of 253 employees out; while that number decreased to 197 on Monday, officials said they haven’t yet reached the breaking point.

Brueggemann has attributed their endurance through the current surge to the addition of 40 nurses from the Federal Emergency Management Agency last fall and now, to the Washington National Guard.

“We’re certainly grateful when we get some help,” Brueggemann said. “These guardsmen come from all over the state: from Seattle, Federal Way, Longview and some of them are from closer areas like Yakima, Selah, Ellensburg.”

Gov. Jay Inslee announced earlier this month he would be sending out 100 members of the National Guard to help hospitals with widespread staffing issues in their emergency rooms during the current surge; 11 members arrived in Yakima over the weekend.

National Guard 1 National Guard At The Hospital Entrance

Courtesy: Yakima Valley Memorial Hospital

Gov. Jay Inslee announced earlier this month he would be sending out 100 members of the National Guard to help hospitals with widespread staffing issues in their emergency rooms during the current surge; 11 members arrived in Yakima over the weekend. 

“We’ll be here four weeks, doing things like greeting patients, restocking rooms and wheeling patients around in wheelchairs,” said 2nd Lt. Paige Bentley, the officer in charge of the National Guard members in Yakima. “We may do other non-clinical tasks as they arise.”

Brueggemann said though they won’t be able to help with direct patient care or tasks that require medical training, their help will free up those who do have that training to be able to take on additional patients.

“Our support will help alleviate some of the workload issues faced inside our care facilities as well as reduce the number of people walking into the emergency room seeking COVID-19 tests,” Bentley said. “It’s just been really great to help out the hospital.”

While the National Guard is only scheduled to be deployed at the hospital for four weeks, Brueggemann said the governor could extend that time period if there’s sufficient need.

“Hopefully, by that time, we’ll be through the major portion of the peak,” Brueggemann said.

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