EDGEWOOD, Ky. — Kentucky National Guard members helping manage patient surges and staffing shortages left St. Elizabeth Healthcare hospitals Monday.
For staff, saying goodbye to the 16 guard members who spent six months cleaning rooms and lifting, stocking and serving food was bittersweet.
"We're excited that they've been here and sad to see them go," said Abigayle Sorrell, an emergency department technician for St. Elizabeth Ft. Thomas. "But also it means good things hopefully for COVID."
At the height of the omicron surge, guard members helped with logistical and administrative needs, allowing health care workers to focus on their patients.
"Them coming allowed us to have more one-on-one time with our patients who needed us," said technician Angela Theetge.
Months later, Health Collaborative data shows COVID-19 cases per 100,000 people have fallen to moderate or low levels in much of the Tri-State. Still, Boone, Kenton and Campbell counties in Kentucky still have higher rates.
While each county boasts numbers about three times higher than Hamilton County, St. Elizabeth staff have seen a significant change in the strain on emergency departments.
"It looks to be easing a bit and we're so blessed and so thankful to have that national guard team with us," Jesse Neak, St. Elizabeth Healthcare's cardiovascular institute business manager.
With staff shortages calming, administrators sense a turning point and felt comfortable letting critical helpers move on. None of the guard members left empty-handed, though. They received certificates of recognition, hugs and applause.
"It shows the amount of people who appreciated the fact that we were here," said 2nd Lt. Griffin Pfisterer with the Kentucky Army National Guard. "It means a lot to us to come in and be welcome by everybody. But to also see that same factor leaving."