1,050 Ohio National Guard members to help with hospital staffing shortages

Gov. Mike DeWine has ordered 1,050 Ohio National Guard members into Ohio’s hospitals to help with staffing shortages related to COVID-19.

The members will begin Monday, with 150 members being trained medical personnel and EMTs, and 900 members serving in nonmedical capacities.

The 150 medically trained Ohio National Guard members are not already working in hospitals, the governor said. They will be deployed strategically, with a focus on Northeast Ohio where the greatest need is at this point. It is not clear how long they will deployed.

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“We appreciate Gov. DeWine’s action today that will provide important resources for hospitals to continue providing services in their communities,” Ohio Hospital Association President and CEO Mike Abrams said. “We value our continued partnership and collaboration with Gov. DeWine, his administration and state agencies to explore solutions to ensure Ohioans have access to hospital services during this pandemic.”

Sarah Hackenbracht, president and CEO of the Greater Dayton Area Hospital Association, said the group’s members are waiting for more details and will coordinate with the Ohio Department of Health and Ohio National Guard as more information is available.

“As the governor stated, the initial focus will be dedicated to the northern portion of our state because of the severity of their situation,” she said. “However, all portions of Ohio, including the Dayton region, would benefit from additional staffing support.”

The state is also working with a health care staffing company to help hospitals fill shortages.

“This will allow Ohio hospitals to bring in qualified nurses and other medical personnel from out of state to fill needed positions and help ease some of the pressure on hospitals and their staff over the critical holiday period,” DeWine said.

Earlier in the pandemic, Ohio’s concern was about having enough hospital beds, now it is about personnel, the governor said.

“Twenty-two months of this pandemic has taken its toll on our health care workers, and that is certainly understandable,” he said. “We cannot thank them enough for the work that they have done and the work that they have continued to do.”

COVID hospitalizations have continued to rise over the last month and a half and are approaching peaks last reported during Ohio’s winter surge.

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On Friday, 4,784 COVID patients hospitalized in Ohio had COVID, according to the Ohio Department of Health. There were 1,185 patients in the ICU and 739 on ventilators.

It’s the highest number of COVID patients in Ohio’s hospitals since last December, DeWine said. Nine out of 10 people in Ohio’s hospitals are unvaccinated.

Almost all of the hospitals in northern Ohio have stopped elective procedures due to the high number of patients and staffing shortages, he said. In central Ohio, some hospitals have started to delay elective procedures, and hospitals in southern Ohio are making plans to delay those services when needed.

“Ohio hospital caregivers are working aggressively to combat the current surge of COVID-19 patients and the situation is devastating in many communities across our state,” Abrams said. “In recent weeks hospitals have had to make difficult decisions to ensure hospital services were available, including postponing elective surgeries, transferring patients to other facilities and diverting EMS services. We are also seeing an increase in influenza cases.”

Most of the state’s cases and hospitalizations are being driven by the Delta variant, but health officials are also watching for the newly emerging Omicron variant.

Initial testing out of the Cleveland Clinic indicates the Omicron variant is already spreading throughout northern Ohio, DeWine said.

“The Omicron variant is coming, and it’s going to sweep across this state,” he said.

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The governor urged those who think they might have COVID to not go to the emergency room for testing unless they are seriously ill. He also suggested that schools continue or return to masking for approximately the next four weeks.

In November, 294,000 Ohioans started the COVID-19 vaccine and and 945,000 received a booster shot, the governor said. So far this month, 101,000 Ohioans received their first dose of the vaccine and 514,000 received a booster.

The governor said to help prevent hospitalization from climbing more, residents should get vaccinated or get a booster dose.

As of Thursday, 6.89 million Ohioans have received at least one dose of the COVID vaccine and 2.39 million have received a booster dose.

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