Facing resource-straining battles against COVID-19, hospitals across Tennessee this week began receiving support from the Tennessee National Guard.
On Sunday, Morristown-Hamblen Healthcare System will be among them.
“We have seen a significant influx of COVID patients causing long waits in our Emergency Department,” a spokesperson for the hospital said in a statement released Saturday night. “We are doing the absolute best we can to see patients as quickly as possible, and we request everyone be patient with us.
“We are grateful to receive assistance from the National Guard. These individuals will provide additional resources to facilitate care in the Emergency Department and on the units.
“We have consolidated our surgery staff to free up additional people to care for patients on the floors and in the Emergency Department.”
The announcement comes as the state reported 652 active cases in Hamblen County and surges in other Lakeway Area counties, as well. Cocke County, for instance, saw an increase of 66 active cases up to 547.
Hospital officials are encouraging everyone who is eligible to get the vaccine. Hamblen County has among the lowest vaccination rates in the region.
“The COVID population is significant, with 85% of those currently in the hospital with COVID being unvaccinated,” the hospital spokesperson said. “We encourage everyone to get vaccinated. There is no guarantee you will not get COVID, but if you do, the symptoms are usually less severe because your body has antibodies to fight the virus.
“Please wear a mask, wash your hands and maintain social distance to greatly reduce the virus transmission.”
Morristown-Hamblen isn’t the only Tennessee hospital to turn to the National Guard.
Earlier this week the Guard began staffing support to various hospitals at the request of the Tennessee Department of Health.
Starting on Aug. 20, the Tennessee National Guard sent 20 guardsmen to Baptist Hospital in Memphis and two Guardsmen to Lafollette Healthcare in Campbell County to expand its COVID-19 support. The Guardsman are capable of working in many types of hospital units and are able to help with administrative tasks.
The Tennessee National Guard is also providing five support personnel to Nashville’s Mid-Cumberland Regional Hospital Office to assist in the schools call center.
Officials did not indicate how many guardsmen have been sent to Morristown,
Over the course of the pandemic, soldiers and airmen have also established temporary testing sites in focus areas, tested vulnerable populations at long-term care facilities, county and state corrections facilities, public housing, and many other locations across the state.
They established Infectious disease Teams that visit hospitals and alternative care centers to help develop plans and processes that prevent and decrease COVID-19 transmissions within the facilities. Guardsmen have also provided administrative and medical assistance to hospitals, collected and distributed Personal Protective Equipment, and conducted various other task as requested through TEMA.
In all, thousands of Tennessee Guardsmen have volunteered to help during the pandemic. Over the last 17 months, anywhere from 250-700 Guardsmen have been actively supporting the testing and vaccination efforts across the state. This has resulted in Tennessee Guardsmen supporting the testing of more than 920,000 Tennesseans and the vaccination of over 1 million.
Currently, there are more than 580 soldiers and airmen providing support to 58 counties in Tennessee by helping with testing, vaccinations, and administrative support to health care providers.