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Military medical personnel go underutilized Marine hospital ships and field medical centers to relieve overworked civilian medics in hard-hit New York City hospitals as the coronavirus crisis continues.
“We are a new face, we have the energy and enthusiasm,” said Aviation Colonel Jennifer Ratcliff, who brought medical teams to Lincoln Hospital and Jacobi Medical Center in the Bronx.
The personnel there “are tired and have worked very, very long days and weeks,” said Ratcliff, commander of 927 Aerospace Medical Squadron at MacDill Air Force Base in Florida.
the Marine The 1,000-bed Comfort hospital ship was dispatched to the city, arriving at Pier 90 in Manhattan on March 30, to deal with the expected overflow of trauma patients from city hospitals as local doctors treated cases of COVID- 19. But the flow of patients did not materialize, Defense Secretary Mark Esper said at a Pentagon press conference on Tuesday.
“The strategy has changed,” he said. “We are moving our doctors, some of our doctors, out of the Comfort and putting them in New York hospitals for relief.”
The USNS Comfort in New York.
He did not give the number of reassigned medics from the Comfort, but said a total of 2,100 military medics, nurses and medical aides are now in the city and will soon be augmented by additional medical teams from the Army.
Ratcliff said the military reinforcements were well received.
“You can walk around the hospital and just see that the people there and the residents are really happy to welcome us,” she added.
“We’ve been in hospitals pretty much since we arrived,” Navy Captain Joe Kochan said of the 1,100 reserve doctors, nurses and orderlies who were deployed to the city last week.
“As it is, we’re really moving around hospitals to meet their needs,” said Kochan, general manager of the Health Operational Support Unit based in Portsmouth, Va.
When he announced the deployment medical staff in the city on April 5, Esper said around 300 would go to 11 hospitals in the city. It was not known on Tuesday whether that number had increased.
Kochan and Ratcliff have joined Army Lt. Col. Leslie Curtis, chief nurse at the 9th Field Hospital out of Fort Hood, Texas, during a conference call from New York to the Pentagon to highlight the city’s ongoing needs despite the underutilization of the converted Javits Center and Comfort so far.
In addition to the 1,100 medical personnel already deployed, the military on Monday announced plans to send more teams to the city.
Fifteen urban strengthening medical task forces will be deployed across the country to assist cities in the fight against the coronavirus, and four of those task forces, each consisting of 85 people, will be sent to New York City, the military said. .
The military has sought to adapt its efforts in New York to the changing demands of city and state authorities.
The original intention was for the Comfort and a field medical facility at the Javits Convention Center to treat non-COVID-19 patients to alleviate some of the burden of overcrowded local hospitals. But the demand for treatment of non-COVID patients has not emerged in a city on lockdown.
The city then requested that the Comfort and Javits Center be used only for COVID-19 patients, and the military agreed, but bureaucratic and logistical issues hampered the transfer of patients.
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Military medics providing infectious disease training in Panama in 2018.
MMilitary health system
COVID-19 patients first had to be taken to local hospitals for testing, but the agreement is now for ambulances to take patients directly to the Javits Center or the Comfort.
As of Monday, around 320 patients were at the Javits Center with a capacity of 1,500 beds. The Pentagon’s latest report on the Comfort on Friday said there were more than 50 patients aboard the 1,000-bed ship.
Curtis, who worked at the Javits Center, acknowledged the delays in arriving patients. “First, we had to determine what the needs were,” she said. Then the focus was on “streamlining bureaucracy, which everyone wants to do at all levels”.
“Every day we find more ways,” she says. “I think this is going in the right direction.
“We want to do this. We have the ability to adapt to any demand, depending on the needs of the city or any particular mission required, ”added Curtis.
There has been speculation the Comfort could be pulled from New York and sent elsewhere, but Ratcliff said she saw no sign of the military’s efforts in the city slackening.
“The city, I believe, still needs our assets,” she said. “I don’t think there is any question of reducing that, but, again, we’ll do whatever the New York government needs.”
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo on Tuesday described a city that still needed support despite persistent signs that new cases of the coronavirus had plateaued.
“We are reducing the rate of infection,” he said. But 778 more deaths from the coronavirus were recorded in the city on Monday.
“This is terrible, terrible, terrible news,” he said.