Photo Credit: Erlanger Health System / Facebook
Published September 7, 2021
The Tennessee Conservative [By Jason Vaughn] –
On September 2, the Tennessee National Guard confirmed that 30 members had completed orientation for their two-week stint at Erlanger. After orientation, the guardsmen were split among both hospitals for further assignments.
According to a spokesperson from Erlanger, the members are there to “assist with non-clinical duties and provide relief to our associates during the latest surge of COVID-19 cases in our region.”
Their assignment is meant to last only 14 days.
“30 National Guardsmen have completed their orientation at Erlanger health,” Latricia Thomas from New 9 said on Twitter. “They are coming in to help with non-medical duties, so Erlanger employees can focus on the influx of patients.”
Lt. Col. Justin Olander has predicted the guard members may be in Chattanooga longer to deal with recent surges in Covid cases. He said the national guard has deployed members to other hospitals across the state on similar assignments.
Hospitals in the area are at maximum capacity, and Pediatric Surgeon Dr. Lisa Smith told News 9 it has been overwhelming for healthcare workers and patients.
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“And I feel all my partner’s pain, all of the hospitals are taking measures to handle this surge,” Dr. Smith said. “As the case volumes go up of this infectious disease, on top of all the other duties of the hospitals, that’s one thing, but there is no place to decompress any patient.”
Olander told News 9 that hospitals in the state are in desperate need of the National Guard’s help.
“The hospital is pretty much exhausted every other course of action that they could, and that they’re in the need of having our service members to come in and support them,” Olander said.
He also explained that bringing in guards “allows nurses that are currently seeing a high number of patients at one time, it allows us to augment them, and allow them to to see more patients.”
The service members are assigned for an initial two weeks, but Olander said they will be there to provide help and support as long as it is needed.
“I think we’ll be here definitely longer than two weeks. We’re estimating at least six to eight weeks possibly,” he said.
According to Olander, there are around 200 National Guard service members helping in hospitals across the state. The other two major hospitals in Chattanooga, CHI Memorial and Parkridge, have also asked for help from the guard.
CHI spokesperson Darrin Hass said the hospital is expected to receive 6 guard members by the end of the week.
“And this is our family, our friends that we’re able to assist and help within local Tennessee and so we’re definitely proud,” Olander said, adding that morale is high among the guards. “We’re definitely motivated to be there and to continue the fight.”
Erlanger spokesperson Blaine Kelley spoke out to show her gratitude to the 30 guardsmen in Chattanooga.
“We cannot thank our men and women in uniform enough for serving our country as well as our local communities during this very difficult time,” Kelley said. “Our system continues to see exponential growth in COVID hospitalizations and we encourage the community to do your part to help relieve this stress by masking, practicing good hand hygiene, and getting vaccinated.”
About the Author:
Jason Vaughn, Media Coordinator for The Tennessee Conservative ~ Jason previously worked for a legacy publishing company based in Crossville, TN in a variety of roles through his career. Most recently, he served as Deputy Directory for their flagship publication. Prior, he was a freelance journalist writing articles that appeared in the Herald Citizen, the Crossville Chronicle and The Oracle among others. He graduated from Tennessee Technological University with a Bachelor’s in English-Journalism, with minors in Broadcast Journalism and History. Contact Jason at news@TennesseeConservativeNews.com