Military steps in to help exhausted health workers, coronavirus patients in California
SACRAMENTO (US) – Despite simmering fears for her family, Air Force nurse Major Pinky Brewton cares for coronavirus patients struggling to breathe in California’s San Joaquin Valley while maintaining a cool exterior.
She gets relief only when she sees her seven-year-old son on Facetime when she gets back to her Stockton hotel room.
“He’s breathing!” Brewton said. “That’s the first thing I see as a nurse. How well is my son breathing?”
For the past two weeks, the Department of Defense has dispatched nearly 200 medics and logistics experts to the Valley. The military has also sent nearly 600 personnel to Texas where rising coronavirus cases are overwhelming hospitals in the Rio Grande Valley.
Working extra shifts the teams of nurses, doctors and technicians care for patients. Many of them are so weak from lack of proper oxygen that they can hardly eat.
With the surge in cases, the intensive care units in San Joaquin Valley were overwhelmed. In some counties, as many as 28% of test results were positive.
Stockton’s Dameron hospital deployed every nurse on the new COVID-19 floor, said Jennifer Markovich, chief nursing officer.
“There wasn’t a slow rampup. In the space of two weeks we just saw a significant increase in patients … and really started to see those staffing needs really escalate.”
Markovich said that when staffing agencies lacked adequate healthcare workers, the hospital turned to the state for help. Under the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Brewton’s team comprising 20 military nurses and respiratory therapists resumed duty in mid-July.
As many as 160 Air Force medical staff have been sent to California so far and 100 are in San Joaquin Valley. They are led by 25 US Army logistics experts well versed in responding to nuclear, chemical and biological attacks.
Chaplains and mental health experts have also been roped in to provide relief.
(Photos syndicated via Reuters)
This story has been edited by BH staff and is published from a syndicated field