200 National Guard soldiers providing support at 20 Tennessee hospitals due to COVID surge


NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – The rapid increase in COVID-19 cases is straining hospital beds and staff, forcing the need for emergency staffing assistance.

Gov. Bill Lee signed an executive order allowing for hospital staffing flexibility and deployed the National Guard to assist where they’re needed. The guardsmen are supporting medical centers across the state to help alleviate some of the stress caused by COVID-19.

“We’re currently in 20 hospitals across the state, and we have roughly 200 service members within those hospitals augmenting the staff,” Joint Task Force Medical Commander Lt. Col. Justin Olander said.

From Memphis to Chattanooga, Morristown to Nashville, the guardsmen are backfilling jobs in hospitals as they deal with massive surges of sick COVID patients.

“We have medics, we have some nurses as well that are working, but they’re primarily medics. We also have admin support and the admin support can do a wide range of patients care-type things under the supervision of a nurse,” Olander said.

The staffing struggles are expected to continue as the state is breaking daily hospitalization records.

Only 5% of intensive care beds are available in the state.

“Anytime that we receive a request for support in the hospital we can usually lift and shift our formation, our service members to respond to a hospital and be integrated with their staff within 24-48 hours,” said Olander.

Nashville Democrat and House Minority Caucus Chair Vincent Dixie said more preventative measures are needed now to keep Tennessee hospitals afloat.

“It’s getting to the point where pretty much everyone here in Tennessee knows someone that has died from COVID. This is ridiculous,” Dixie said. “What we need the governor to do is to step up and say, listen everyone go get the vaccines, we’re going to mandate masks, we’re going to do more testing at schools to make sure our students are safe, and our teachers are safe and we’re going to make sure that we do a better job of contact tracing and it’s not hard to do.”

The hospital requests are for two-week periods and must be approved through the Tennessee Department of Health. The location and number of guardsmen assisting hospitals can fluctuate based on the daily need of hospitals.

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