CINCINNATI — More than 1,000 people with COVID-19 are staying the night in southwest Ohio hospitals Thursday, a new high according to the Ohio Hospital Association.
The good news for health care workers? Help is on the way. Officials say 400 Ohio National Guard members will soon be in Cincinnati and Dayton. There are currently 20 National Guard members at The Christ Hospital, with another 30 coming early next week. Their mission is to support the staff however they can.
Maj. Eric Bailey, a physician assistant, is in charge of the National Guard unit at The Christ Hospital.
"It's like starting 10-30 new employees on very short notice, so arranging everyone, getting them here on time, on the right day, on location — get them started the next day," Bailey said. "It's been difficult, stressful. We just show up and do our job like we have to. Adjust, adapt, and do what we have to do — our main goal is to take care of patients."
Half of the group, including Staff Sgt. Melissa McWilliams, is already trained in medical response
"We train consistently throughout the year to make sure we're up on our skills," McWilliams said. "We're already familiar with doing IVs and straight sticks, triage for patients."
They'll handle vitals and blood draws while the other half of the unit helps with non-medical related tasks.
"We're just helping with some of the other departments that support the daily needs of the hospital and staff," Staff Sgt. Makayla Scharber said. "Having the guard here is an additional layer of support here for our teams."
The Christ Hospital Network CEO and President Debbie Hayes said the help is needed for a strained system.
"The National Guard is a wave of fresh eyes, and fresh energy that can come help our teams support what they need to get done so we can continue to provide extraordinary care," Hayes said.
At the end of the day, National Guard members said their mission is clear.
"It's almost hard to explain. It's a gratifying experience to be one-on-one with patients, that's why we do it," McWilliams said. "That's why we're in the National Guard — to help our community, to see it in a person's eyes is amazing."