Oregon Hospitals Prepare For National Guard Deployment

National Guard members at the Oregon Convention Center in January 2020. Kristyna Wentz-Graff OPB.jpg

Oregon’s hospitals are preparing for an influx of National Guard troops next week, to help with COVID-19 cases.

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown announced the deployment of up to 1,500 National Guard members Friday. They’ll assist at 20 hospitals around the state.

St. Charles in Bend expects about 150 troops. Spokeswoman Lisa Goodman says they’re grateful for the help, although the majority of the troops aren’t medically certified, so they’ll be working in nonclinical roles, “We’re starting to think about allocating space at our hospital and dedicating that to the guard to set up and run its operations.”

Beginning Friday, an initial 500 Guard members will be deployed as materials handlers, equipment runners, as well as COVID-19 testing assistants.

“The stress on Oregon hospitals right now is truly unprecedented. Our resources are stretched woefully thin at the same time we are seeing a frightening rise in COVID cases,” said Joe Sluka, president of St. Charles Health System.

“We are grateful for the Guard’s help. We look forward to welcoming its members on our hospital campuses to help see our health system through this public health crisis as we continue to work every possible avenue to secure more clinical resources to care for our patients at the bedside,” Sluka said.

It’s not the first time the Guard has been deployed in the pandemic — members have been mobilized to staff mass vaccination centers.

Brown said she can’t emphasize enough the seriousness of the crisis. “When our hospitals are full with COVID-19 patients, there may not be room for someone needing care after a car crash, a heart attack, or other emergency situation,” she said.

“I know this is not the summer many of us envisioned, with over 2.5 million Oregonians vaccinated against COVID-19. The harsh, and frustrating reality is that the Delta variant has changed everything. Delta is highly contagious, and we must take action now.”

Health experts are asking people to get vaccinated, “Vaccines are safe, effective, and widely available,” Brown said. “When you go out in public today, wear a mask. Masks are a simple and effective way for all of us to help slow the spread of COVID-19.”

This story was originally published by Oregon Public Broadcasting.

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