Military medical personnel answer Providence hospital's call for help

November 15, 2021


Reinforcements from the military arrived in mid-October to bolster the medical staff at Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center in Spokane, Washington.

A staffer with Providence Caregiver Health Services fits one of the military clinicians assisting at Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center for a respirator mask. A team of 20 military clinicians deployed to the Spokane, Washington, hospital in mid-October to help treat patients hospitalized for COVID-19.

The contingent of 20 doctors, nurses and respiratory therapists was sent by the Department of Defense after the medical center requested assistance from the Washington State Department of Health in August, when the number of COVID-19 patients threatened to overwhelm the hospital's resources.

Dr. Daniel Getz, chief medical officer, said Sacred Heart had a surge in COVID patients and saw no end in sight.

Despite the relentless stress on the staff, Getz said, clinicians' dedication has not faltered. "I think when you walk through our halls the compassion is evident," he said. "The way that our health care providers care for patients has been inspiring, to say the least."

With staff exhausted and the continuing influx of patients requiring high-acuity care for traumas, strokes and heart attacks, the hospital asked for backup.

When the military team took up their posts in several hospital units on Oct. 17 the surge of COVID patients was easing. Getz said the military medical staff was nonetheless needed and appreciated. He said the medical center's clinical staff has been working extra shifts and long hours since the beginning of the pandemic.

The military team's assistance means the hospital's clinicians are getting "a chance to inhale a little bit and to get a little bit of a reprieve," he said in late October.

Sacred Heart is part of the Providence St. Joseph Health system. It was the 11th health care site in the nation to get pandemic assistance from military clinicians. The list of host hospitals includes Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, where a 20-member medical team arrived in August.

Getz said that elective surgeries remained on hold at Sacred Heart in late October. But with the military clinicians' assistance, the hospital was making headway on a backlog of "compelling procedures" that had been postponed.

"While we're nowhere near back to normal operations, the additional help from the Department of Defense team helps us get through that list of patients that we really need to serve much more quickly," he said.

The team is scheduled to remain at Sacred Heart for a month. However, Getz said the hospital would request an extension of their stay.

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