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Oregon National Guard troops will again help local hospitals cope with pandemic surge

Peacehealth Sacred Heart Medical Center at Riverbend in Springfield, Oregon.
Rachael McDonald
Peacehealth Sacred Heart Medical Center at Riverbend in Springfield, Oregon.

Oregon National Guard troops will arrive at Lane County hospitals next week to help with the omicron surge. This is the second time the guard has been called in to help during the pandemic.

The omicron variant is expected to increase hospitalizations at twice the rate seen during the Delta surge last fall. Even though the variant is less severe, it’s much more transmissible.

Elva Sipin is Vice President of Operations at Peacehealth Sacred Heart Medical Center at Riverbend in Springfield. She said, in late August, National Guard troops assisted with non-clinical tasks like passing food trays and changing bed linens, freeing up staff for other tasks.

“It was such a tremendous, tremendous help,” she said. “Not just from a task perspective but really just boost the morale of our caregivers having the National Guard here.”

Sipin told KLCC the ongoing pandemic has been hard on staff.

“We’ve opened up incident command again just in response to the potential surge that we may see,” she said. “And part of that is really looking at overall caregiver wellness and so we have strategies in place to help support our caregivers even from a day to day perspective.”

Sipin mentioned examples like buying an employee lunch on a long day or offering other treats.

Sipin says staffing is still a challenge given the national shortage of caregivers. As of Friday, there were just over 40 people hospitalized with COVID-19 in Lane County. At the height of the Delta surge, that number was closer to 100-plus.

National Guard troops will arrive next week at Peacehealth’s Riverbend and University District hospitals and at McKenzie-Willamette Medical Center.

Copyright 2022 KLCC.

Rachael McDonald is KLCC’s host for All Things Considered on weekday afternoons. She also is the editor of the KLCC Extra, the daily digital newspaper. Rachael has a BA in English from the University of Oregon. She started out in public radio as a newsroom volunteer at KLCC in 2000.
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