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Rhode Island Hospital to get help from military medical team

PROVIDENCE (AP) — Rhode Island Hospital is expecting help from a military medical team as part of a federal effort to help mitigate staffing crunches at hospitals.

Lifespan, the health system that includes Rhode Island Hospital, said Friday that the team of about 20 doctors and nurses is expected to arrive next week and stay for roughly a month.

President Joe Biden announced Thursday that 1,000 military medical personnel will begin deploying across the country to help overwhelmed medical facilities ease staff shortages due to the highly transmissible omicron variant.

Rhode Island Hospital's staff is down about 30% due to vacancies — not counting people who call out sick — at a time when they have the most hospitalized COVID-19 patients at any time during the pandemic due to the omicron surge, said Dr. Dean Roye, chief medical officer for the hospital.

“That combination of the staffing with unprecedented numbers of COVID patients in our hospital really created a circumstance where we were really struggling in terms of being able to meet the needs of the people of Rhode Island and I think that getting help from FEMA will definitely help us to accomplish our mission and keep critically-needed care available for Rhode Islanders,” Roye said.

The hospital currently has about 125 patients with COVID-19 and another 40 or 45 patients who are still there recovering from complications. It has taken about beds out of service because of the staffing issues, causing bottlenecks in the emergency department and forcing the hospital to decline transfers from other facilities at times, Roye said.

Roye said the hospital told the governor, congressional delegation and state and federal emergency management officials that they needed help and they’re “just very happy that some help is coming,” though they could still use more. He said he doesn’t know yet what the team’s skillset is, so he can’t yet say how they medical personnel will be used.

 

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