UT Medical Center gets federal aid to combat COVID, National Guard sent to Sweetwater Hospital

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Sweetwater Hospital Association (Photo via Google Maps); UT Medical Center (Photo via WATE)

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — More Tennessee National Guard members are headed to East Tennessee to assist hospitals with a surge in COVID-19 cases.

According to the LT. Colonel Keith Evans, Deputy Commander for Clinical Services, the majority of Tennessee National Guard personnel are in East Tennessee as the region experiences a larger wave of COVID-19 than other parts of the state.

Over 30 medical facilities within the state are currently receiving additional personnel from the National Guard. Evans says that two more East Tenn. hospitals were granted help Tuesday, Holston Valley Medical Center and Sweetwater Hospital. Sweetwater will be receiving three medics and three administrative personnel from National Guard.

“We get requests every day to look at the facilities and evaluate and determine if we can send personnel in there,” said Evans. “Currently, we have about 400 personnel, that’s medical and non-medical personnel, that are available and on orders. We have shifted every one of those personnel into facilities across the state, predominately in East Tennessee. It’s seeing a larger wave than what they are seeing in middle and west Tennessee. So, we are provided support in as many hospitals as we can in the East Tennessee region.”

Hospitals can request up to 10 medical personnel and 10 non-medical personnel from the National Guard who then evaluated the request. The guard looks at the nurse to patient ratio, the number of occupied beds, the number of COVID ICU patients, and the number of total ICU patients. If the request is granted, the National Guard personnel will help free up clinicians to have more time with patients by helping to stock, cleaning rooms after patients leave, helping with food deliveries, and taking vitals.

Tracking COVID in Tennessee
📊 COVID-19 cases among TN school-age children
📊 Tennessee’s Current COVID-19 hospitalizations
📊 New COVID-19 cases and deaths reported by month

In addition, when hospitals request help from the national guard, the medical facility also sends a request to the federal government. If the need is found to be great, the Department of Health and Human Services or the Department of Defense will allocate resources and send in a team to help augment the facility.

UT Medical Center is being sent a team of 20 clinical personnel and 3 admin personnel from the Department of Defense. The team will be there for the next 30 days. At the end of the 30 days, the team will reevaluate whether to extend their stay or leave.

“Our soldiers and airmen that are providing care and helping out in these facilities, they’re all national guard soldiers, which are citizen soldiers, they live in your community and so when the need is there they step up and provide care and help out in any way form or fashion that they can to the citizens of the state,” said Evans.

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