Nationwide Guard arrives to strengthen overworked Salem Hospital employees


This week, 67 Nationwide Guard troopers started working at Salem Hospital, delivering meals and aiding within the emergency room, with about 100 extra are on the best way. Their assist comes because the hospital exceeded its licensed mattress capability Thursday morning, with 504 sufferers within the 494-bed facility.

U.S. Military Nationwide Guard Spc. Thomas Watson places collectively a affected person meal at Salem Hospital on Wednesday, Sept. 8, 2021. (Amanda Loman/Salem Reporter)

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For Spc. Ethan Gratias, group service missions are the most effective a part of serving within the U.S. Military Nationwide Guard.

So, the Grants Move soldier was completely happy when he obtained orders on the finish of August sending him to Salem Hospital to assist take care of sufferers amid a surge in Covid sufferers that’s overflowed the ICU and at occasions left individuals needing intensive care ready within the emergency room for beds to open up.

“I’m fairly enthusiastic about it,” Gratias mentioned of the mission. “I like the chance to work on one thing that looks like an pressing want.”

Gratias is amongst 67 Nationwide Guard troopers deployed to Salem Hospital who started work this week. About 100 airmen will be part of them beginning Saturday.

Whereas the troopers and airmen aren’t licensed medical professionals, their presence helps the hospital deal with the strains of an overflowing facility.

Salem Hospital sometimes has about 400 sufferers in its 494 licensed beds, however has recorded upwards of 450 individuals hospitalized day by day for a lot of the previous month. On Thursday, the hospital census was 504 sufferers, exceeding its licensed capability – one thing quickly allowed underneath federal emergency declarations associated to the pandemic.

“All through this surge we’ve got prioritized flexibility, creating new areas for sufferers past conventional care areas and using double occupancy rooms. We proceed to make room for all sufferers who want care, however at the moment’s numbers underscore the seriousness of the present surge and the way it’s quickly altering the best way care is delivered in Oregon,” Salem Well being spokeswoman Lisa Wooden mentioned within the hospital’s day by day capability replace.

With so many sufferers in rooms, meaning well being care staff assist with cleansing or different non-clinical jobs as a result of each division within the hospital is stretched skinny.

“We’ve obtained nurses cleansing rooms between sufferers,” mentioned Josh Franke, Salem Well being’s chief mission officer, who’s coordinating the guard deployment on the hospital aspect. Guard troopers and airmen are taking up duties like meal supply, aiding nurses, transporting sufferers, restocking rooms and working check-in stations.

Covid sufferers have accounted for a lot of the surge. The hospital on Thursday had 111 sufferers with Covid in beds, greater than some other hospital in Oregon. That features 23 Covid sufferers within the usually 30-bed intensive care unit, which has added beds in different wings of the hospital to accommodate the variety of severely sick Covid sufferers.

Additionally contributing to the mattress scarcity are individuals with continual well being issues who delayed wanted medical care in the course of the pandemic and are actually sicker, in addition to challenges discharging sufferers to expert nursing amenities as a result of these amenities are understaffed and don’t have beds obtainable, hospital leaders have mentioned.

U.S. Military Nationwide Guard Spc. Joel Carlson, proper, and Salem Hospital worker Hailey Brice work in affected person transportation and consumption for the emergency room at Salem Hospital on Wednesday, Sept. 8, 2021. (Amanda Loman/Salem Reporter)

Gratias was assigned to the hospital’s emergency room Wednesday, the place he helped a triage nurse assess sufferers by taking their vitals.

He mentioned he had some familiarity with the method because of his civilian job as a pool supervisor and lifeguard on the Grants Move YMCA, however realized the hospital machines on the job. His duties additionally included stocking rooms within the emergency division as sufferers got here and went.

His sister lately started work as a nurse, and he mentioned the mixture of her work and being contained in the hospital have underscored the challenges well being care staff face. He mentioned he wished individuals would cease seeing the pandemic and measures like vaccination as political.

“I do know not everybody accepted of the vaccine, however I simply want they might separate their political opinions from the dangers of Covid,” he mentioned.

U.S. Military Nationwide Guard Sgt. 1st Class Sean Neiger, left, and Capt. James Mooney seek the advice of within the foyer at Salem Hospital on Wednesday, Sept. 8, 2021. (Amanda Loman/Salem Reporter)

It’s an task completely different from typical Nationwide Guard deployments, mentioned Capt. James Mooney, the officer accountable for the Salem Hospital mission. His firm has been assigned to help with wildfires and on riot management prior to now 12 months, however beforehand solely guard members with medical coaching had been assigned to Covid-related missions.

Mooney mentioned he had Covid proper earlier than he was scheduled to get his first vaccine earlier within the 12 months and needed to delay his appointment till he recovered. His sense of style and odor haven’t totally come again.

However even together with his private expertise, he mentioned the times he’s spent within the hospital up to now have made the pandemic really feel far more rapid.

“How many individuals are dying – it’s astounding,” Mooney mentioned. “It actually added a brand new stage to the pandemic for me.”

Contact reporter Rachel Alexander: [email protected] or 503-575-1241.

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