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Wisconsin National Guard members deploying to overwhelmed hospitals, nursing homes

Published: Jan. 13, 2022 at 1:07 PM CST|Updated: Jan. 13, 2022 at 7:45 PM CST
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MADISON, Wis. (WBAY) - Wisconsin’s governor has announced new efforts with the Wisconsin National Guard to support staff at overwhelmed hospitals and nursing homes.

The guard members will be trained as certified nursing assistants. This will allow skilled nursing facilities to open up 200 or more beds by the end of February.

It comes as the state records an “unprecedented surge” in COVID-19 cases.

“As cases of Omicron continue to surge, this support is critical for supporting Wisconsin’s nursing homes,” said DHS Secretary-designee Karen Timberlake. “We continue to hear from our nursing home providers that they need more support to care for patients as our health system continues to be stressed by nearly two years of a global pandemic. Our new partnership with Madison College and the Wisconsin National Guard will help us ensure Wisconsinites have access to the care they need and help us increase critical healthcare capacity.”

This week, about 50 members of the National Guard were deployed to six nursing homes in Wisconsin.

About 80 members will start training this week to deploy by the end of January.

Another 80 members will start training in early February to deploy by the end of February.

“As we continue to see COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations surge, we are pursuing every available option to bring needed staffing support to Wisconsin’s health systems,” said Gov. Tony Evers. “I’m proud to announce our new partnership with Madison College to provide training to Wisconsin National Guard members so by the end of February we can welcome more than 200 new certified nursing assistants in nursing homes across our state and expand capacity.”

Starting Monday, ten members of the National Guard will show up at Bellin Hospital, and after orientation, work at Odd Fellow Home, allowing the medical provider to shift patients there who are being seen for non-COVID related cases.

In a statement Bellin CEO Chris Woleske said, “We are tremendously grateful to the National Guard for providing us this much-needed assistance,” and “...we continue to do everything we can to be flexible and adaptable in our staffing at this time of incredibly high hospital volumes.”

Bellin also said it expects the guard members to be at their facility thru at least mid March.

Evers has not said how much this deployment will cost.

Wisconsin reported a record 13,004 new daily cases Thursday. As of this publication, there were 2,278 COVID-19 patients in hospitals, an increase of 276 in a week.

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