Jan. 14—As hospitalizations continue to surge in unprecedented levels in Frederick County, the community's largest health care system started receiving assistance this week from members of the Maryland National Guard.
The state has deployed about 27 National Guard troops to Frederick Health to help the health system with nonclinical duties at vaccine clinics and its drive-thru coronavirus test site at Frederick Health Village, Frederick Health Community Health Director Sara Littleton said. To her knowledge, this is the first time National Guard troops have been sent to Frederick Health.
Wednesday marked the first day guardsmen were stationed at the health system's test site. They helped check drivers in, labeled test tubes and performed other administrative tasks, freeing up Frederick Health employees to concentrate on clinical duties at the test site and allowing the health system to redirect some staff members back to their previous roles in the hospital, Littleton said.
"It's definitely enabled them to focus more on those key clinical areas that are much harder to staff," Littleton said of the guard's presence at the test site.
The guard's assistance has also allowed Frederick Health to expand hours at the test site, which is now open from 7 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. every day. Staff will be able to test about 1,000 patients each day, Littleton said. Previously, the most tests employees had administered in one day was around 860.
Currently, the plan is for the Guard to remain at Frederick Health through the end of March, but members may stay for a longer or shorter period of time, depending on how patient volume at the test site fluctuates, Littleton said. The health system may also transfer some guardsmen to help with nonclinical duties at Frederick Health Hospital as the need arises, she said.
Gov. Larry Hogan mobilized 1,000 members of the Maryland National Guard to help at new and existing coronavirus test sites earlier this month, shortly after the state reported a record number of hospitalizations from the virus.
Frederick Health Hospital continues to operate under "crisis standards of care," initiating emergency protocol to direct limited resources to patients with the highest levels of need. Over a dozen other hospitals in the state have also taken this step.
Frederick Health was treating 114 COVID-19 patients Thursday afternoon, including 17 in the intensive care unit. Roughly 65 percent of these patients were unvaccinated, according to the health system's coronavirus data dashboard.
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