ST. GEORGE, Utah — Utah National Guard service members have been deployed to a hospital to assist in non-clinical support roles.
The Utah Department of Health made a request for additional support through February because of staffing shortages at hospitals and long-term care facilities throughout the state. Last week, it was announced that the National Guard would step in to help where needed.
Members of the Utah National Guard’s COVID-19 Joint Task Force were activated and sent to Intermountain St. George Regional Hospital Tuesday, where officials said patient volumes have risen "to the highest levels of the pandemic" due to the omicron variant of COVID-19. The spike in cases has also "significantly impacted staffing."
Intermountain Healthcare operations officer Mark Evans said Guard members will help out in areas such as environmental services, housekeeping, food services and patient transport.
"All the areas of a hospital that you don't really think about that need to have workers and things happen to make a hospital run," Evans said. "We've had nurses helping out — taking out garbage for a little while instead of having their whole focus on our patients, and that's where we want to be."
This is the first National Guard deployment in a hospital setting in Utah.
"We're honored as Utah Guardsmen, both in the Army and from the air, to be able to serve the community," said Commander Erick Wiedmeier. "We appreciate the hard work that the hospitals and long-term care facilities have done through the last two years, and we are proud to be members of the community of hard-working citizens."
Evans added that the St. George hospital has been operating at capacity for a while now and thanked the Guard members for their help.
"Our ICU has been over 100 percent capacity for months, since the summertime," he said. "It's been a long slog and we've worked really hard, but we are so grateful. I really can't overstate how grateful we are to have support for a few weeks to give our caregivers a little break."
"Utah National Guard members have provided invaluable assistance to the UDOH during the pandemic across multiple mission areas," said Kevin McCulley, the Utah Department of Health's director of preparedness and response. "Early in the response, the Utah Guard was instrumental in the activation of our alternate care site at the Mountain America Expo Center, and now we rely on them for the first deployment into one of Utah's hospitals. This support has been essential throughout the response, and even more so as they activate to support healthcare facilities."