Military medical team headed to N.J. hospital struggling with omicron, staff shortages - Health Professionals & Allied Employees

Military medical team headed to N.J. hospital struggling with omicron, staff shortages

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By Elizabeth Llorente

January 13, 2022

New Jersey’s only public acute-care hospital is among six around the country slated to receive a military medical team to help address a surge in COVID-19 patients and staff shortages.

Newark-based University Hospital, which has had more than 700 employees out sick with COVID-19 in the past 30 days — more than any other hospital in New Jersey — will be getting a team of 23 military medical workers, according to the hospital’s CEO, Dr. Shereef Elnahal.

Elnahal told NJ Advance Media on Thursday that the surge and staffing shortages were taking a toll on the hospital’s employees. It’s not the first time University has received help. In the early days of the pandemic, the hospital was dealing with such a huge demand for care that Army reservists were sent to lend support.

“This is extraordinary news. We were expecting maybe just a few people, but I did not expect them to deliver this many staff to our hospital,” Elnahal said. “We’ve been struggling with understaffing for weeks now. We went into the omicron surge already struggling with staffing, and now it’s even worse, so this couldn’t come at a better time for staff morale.”

President Joe Biden announced the deployment Thursday morning in a press conference.

Elnahal said he did not yet know the specific specialties of the medical team members who will arrive at University Hospital, but “really, it doesn’t matter because we’re struggling in pretty much every area.”

Shortly after the Biden administration’s announcement, Elnahal tweeted: “I’ve had a lot of bad déjà vu over the past few weeks, but I’m grateful for my déjà vu today. @POTUS just announced that he’ll deploy heroes in uniform to @UnivHospNewark to help with our #OmicronVariant surge.

Elnahal posted a photo of the Army reservists at University Hospital in April 2020 and said: “These heroes saved us, and they will again.”

Next week, the first of 1,000 military medical personnel “mobilized to enhance surge efforts will begin landing at hospitals across the country,” the Federal Emergency Management Agency said in a statement to NJ Advance Media.

Military medical teams of doctors, nurses and other clinical personnel will be lending support to University Hospital, Cleveland Clinic in Ohio, Coney Island Hospital in Brooklyn, Rhode Island Hospital in Providence, Henry Ford Hospital just outside Detroit and University of New Mexico hospital in Albuquerque.

“These teams will be providing relief, triaging patients, helping to decompress overwhelmed emergency departments,” FEMA said, “and freeing up healthcare providers to continue other lifesaving care. They will be working alongside healthcare workers on the front lines to give them the support they need.”

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