National Guard helping hospitals deal with COVID-19 surge

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ATLANTA (NewsNation Now) — The surge in patients seeking emergency treatment for COVID-19 has forced some hospitals to accept help from National Guard troops trained in medical care.

One such hospital — Piedmont Fayette near Atlanta — has had to open overflow areas, including putting emergency room beds in what had been a lobby. The hospital now has 24 Guard members deployed to help the overworked doctors and nurses.

“We’re experiencing high volumes of very sick individuals,” said Merry Heath, chief nursing officer at the hospital. ” She said the hospital has a normal capacity of 282 patients but now has 317 beds occupied by patients.

Other Georgia hospitals are reporting similar situations, and earlier this week, Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp said he was deploying 105 National Guard personnel throughout the state to assist hospitals.

“These 105 people, they are people that weren’t currently in that environment,” Kemp said Wednesday. “They’re people that are coming back from other tours of duty that haven’t gone back to work yet and are available to assist in the hospital setting. These guardsmen will assist our frontline healthcare workers as they provide quality medical care during the current increase in cases and hospitalizations.”

“There’s a lot of people here. It’s a very busy schedule every day,” said Sgt. Stephen Watts, one of the Guard members at Piedmont. “This is my local hospital, actually. I live 10 minutes away. My son was born here. When I heard they were requesting assistance, I immediately jumped at the opportunity.”

The Guard’s help is “making a huge difference,” Heath said.

Georgia is one of seven states where governors are deploying the National Guard to help hospitals in crisis. In Georgia, troops are scheduled to help out at hospitals at least until the end of September, and that end date is widely expected to be extended.

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