National Guard plays major role in Wisconsin pandemic response | News, Sports, Jobs

Brig. Gen. Tim Covington, the Wisconsin National Guard Deputy Adjutant General for Civil Support, expresses his gratitude to Wisconsin National Guard troops and officials at Bellin Health Systems and Odd Fellows Home in Green Bay, Wisconsin, on April 26. The Wisconsin National Guard is winding down its mission to support nursing assistants at facilities across the state. (Photo by Major Joe Trovato)

LA CROSSE, Wis. – After more than three months, the Wisconsin National Guard’s mission to assist as nursing assistants in state health facilities is coming to an end.

Senior Wisconsin National Guard leaders and Wisconsin Department of Health Services officials visited several health care facilities across the state to express their appreciation for the partnership that has formed between them and the hospitality they extended to members of the Guard who served at these establishments. .

As the state grappled with the omicron variant COVID-19 surge in late 2021 and an ongoing shortage of health care personnel, the availability of beds in health care facilities was paramount. . This mission now ends as the Guard’s need for assistance has dissipated.

The state has turned to the National Guard to help fill the void and open additional beds at key facilities. More than 160 Soldiers and Citizen Airmen completed two-week training programs at Madison College or Bellin College in Green Bay as well as on-the-job training to obtain nursing assistant certification before being assigned to health care facilities and long-term care facilities around the state. More than 130 additional troops provided assistance at other state-run facilities.

Although these troops mostly come from non-medical backgrounds, the reviews have been phenomenal as the troops have shown their adaptability and professionalism at every turn.

Charlene Everett, CEO of Odd Fellows Home in Green Bay, where about 10 soldiers have been helping since mid-January, praised Guard members for their service at her facility.

“It was wonderful,” she said during an April 26 recognition event at Odd Fellows Home. “They have been obedient, attentive and so kind to our residents.”

Everett told the story of a resident of Odd Fellows who historically didn’t want anyone to help her, but struck up a fantastic relationship with one of the Guard members helping out at the facility. Another resident in financial difficulty told one of the Guard members that he needed a few items, and the Guard member wanted to help and used his own money to purchase the items for the man.

“Honestly, I have nothing negative to say” said Everett. “I would do it again without hesitation. The scary part is their absence, but we knew it was coming, so we prepared for it, and I think we’re going to be good.

Brig. Gen. Tim Covington, the Wisconsin National Guard’s deputy adjutant general for civil support, traveled to Green Bay to personally thank the Soldiers and Airmen involved in the Nursing Assistant Support mission who served at the facilities. from Bellin Health Systems and Odd Fellows before heading to La Crosse, where troops had helped at both the Mayo Clinic and Hillview Health Center.

Joining Covington were Dr. Jon Meiman, epidemiologist and chief medical officer for the Wisconsin Department of Health Services, and Miki Gould, the facility liaison for the Wisconsin Healthcare Capacity Task Force. and Col. Randall Myszka, the commander of the Wisconsin Army National Guard Medical Detachment. , on visits.

Meiman noted the critical role long-term care facilities play in the state’s overall healthcare system and how the impact of COVID coupled with healthcare worker shortages has impacted that system.

“We cannot thank the Guard enough for the work you have done, being willing to step in and volunteer you in a whole new role,” Meiman said while visiting troops ending their tours at Odd Fellow Home in Green Bay. “It has helped more patients than I think we will ever experience in this state.”

Covington also expressed his gratitude for the service of National Guard members while stressing that the success of the mission over the past few months is in large part due to the strong partnerships developed between the National Guard, the Department of Health Services and health care institutions. such as Bellin, Odd Fellow, Mayo, Hillview and dozens of others the troops directly supported.

“Success comes from partnerships,” Covington said. “It doesn’t come from being a 185-year-old organization. It comes from partnerships. First and foremost, our partnership is this relationship that we have with the military and air force members of the organization who trust the leadership to find a way to get things done, but then it’s the partnership with the civil authority which actually asks us for support.”

Since beginning its mission to augment auxiliary nursing staff in mid-January, Guard troops have helped increase the state’s post-acute care bed capacity by nearly 270, which enabled healthcare partners to decompress hospitals.

The Wisconsin National Guard has played a major role in the state’s response to the pandemic since the day the public health emergency was first declared in March 2020. Since then, the Guard has helped administer over 1.2 million COVID tests, over 230,000 vaccinations, placed over 565,000 calls to notify residents of test results, assist county medical examiners, staffed self-isolation facilities, and Moreover.

The COVID response represents the largest sustained national mobilization in the Wisconsin National Guard’s 185-year history.

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