COLUMBUS, Ohio – Ohio National Guards support ends Tuesday at the last two health systems, where service members added staff as part of a mission to help with operations at hospitals and test centers during the omicron rise.
What you need to know
- Ohio National Guards COVID-19 wave support mission ends Tuesday, officials said
- Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine sent nearly 2,400 service members to hospitals and test sites
- A hospital official expressed gratitude for the National Guard’s support and hopes it will not be necessary again
The National Guard completed its withdrawal from test operations on Friday, the last day service members worked at nine test centers.
The National Guard team supporting ProMedica in Toledo and Miami Valley Hospital in Dayton will end their service at the hospitals on Tuesday, following the guard’s departure from Mount Carmel East Hospital in Columbus on Monday.
Their departures bring a closure of the two-month mission that involved nearly 2,400 Ohio National Guard and State Defense Force members, one of the largest hospital deployments of a state governor during the omicron rise.
The deployment included medical staff performing clinical roles in hospitals during the rise, but most Ohio National Guard members performed non-clinical tasks in a number of areas where hospitals needed staff, including transportation services, food services, environmental services, and workers. test sites.
“Ohio National Guard members who have supported these remaining test centers and hospitals will be demobilized this week and return to their families and civilian obligations,” spokeswoman Stephanie Beougher said Monday.
Dr. Scott Wilber, Mount Carmel’s chief physician, said 210 members of the National Guard supported the health care system during the mission. On Sunday, Mount Carmel East Hospital closed a 28-bed surge unit that was open for four weeks and treated 130 patients from across central Ohio.
“In the period from Thanksgiving around to the end of January, we saw this really dramatic increase in COVID patients, and at the same time, our staff, many of them, were also exposed to or contracted COVID at that time. So we had a number of staff, that was out too, “Wilber said. “The National Guard came at just the right time for us.”
The staff’s on-call staff provided the hospital with the resources to open the surgeon and take transfers from other hospitals, easing the spread of the virus across the region, Wilber said. Doctors from the National Guard, who worked at the Eastern Hospital, made an impact on the emergency department, providing much-needed support to trigger patients at the height of the virus wave, he said.
“When we were at the top of the climb, the volume of the emergency room was very high. We had a lot of people waiting in the waiting room and they went out and took vital things for us and helped us keep an eye on all the people in the waiting room is waiting to come back to be seen, “Wilber said.
When Governor Mike DeWine announced he deployed the Ohio National Guard on Dec. 17, he said service members would support Ohio hospitals for as long as needed. The purpose of the mission was to relieve the staff load from the number of hospitalized virus patients.
They started their test support on Walker Center in Cleveland Christmas Eve. The first hospitalizations were in northeast Ohio. As the virus spread, rollouts were announced in all regions of the state.
Ohio Major General John C. Harris Jr. said last month that no one in the National Guard would expect to work on a mission like this when they are recruited, but he said all the deployed service members understood what to do when they were called to the hospital mission.
“They did this during the holiday season, and honestly, when we called them, they did not give up,” he said.
On top of the mission, the National Guard was deployed at 62 hospitals and 18 test sites across the state.
Some of the test centers that received support closed at the departure of the National Guard, while others will continue to operate with smaller staff.
UC Health in Cincinnati said last week that it transitioned its test operations from a drive-thru site to in-office testing after the deployment of 10 Guard members who supported the mass test site ended. Hamilton County health officials had asked for the National Guard to continue supporting test sites the week after the Super Bowl if there should be an increase in the Cincinnati area after primaries.
As major test sites close, officials note that home tests are increasingly available, in part because of the declining number of cases.
In Clark County, officials said Friday that the Department of Health would not continue its drive-thru test site, which was backed by the Ohio National Guard, but would instead offer home tests for pickup at their headquarters.
Ohio residents who have requested tests through the federal ordering system are now receiving their supplies, and the Ohio Department of Health is also sending home tests to schools, libraries, and community centers to distribute them free of charge. On top of the increase, time was booked for pharmacy trials for several days in some areas, but the availability of appointments has significantly improved.
COVID-19 hospital admissions in Ohio peaked at its highest ever on January 10 at 6,749, and by the end of January, the state had highest rate of new deaths in the country. As of the most recent update on Monday, COVID-19 admissions were down to 1,517 according to government data.
Wilber said Mount Carmel is hopeful it will not need support from the National Guard again to deal with COVID-19 patients, and encourages residents to be vaccinated to help avoid this possibility.
“We have seen a marked decline in our COVID patients over the last few weeks and we are now down to a lower level. Even though we are at a lower level, we are still very concerned and keeping an eye on society transmission,” and we will be prepared for another surgeon if one should come, “he said.