US National Guard on mission to provide relief to overwhelmed health care workers

Posted at 9:22 AM, Jan 13, 2021

Staff is stretched thin at Corona Regional Medical Center.

“The phrase that we keep using is unprecedented,” said Tae Kim, MD. “In my over 20 years of practice, I’ve never seen anything like this.”

Kim is the medical director for the emergency department at the Southern California hospital that he says has been overwhelmed by COVID-19.

“I mean like sci-fi levels of illness,” he said. “This is something that we’ve never dealt with in our professional lives.”

With so many new COVID-19 cases, staff is working extra hours and ICU beds are so full that the waiting room has been converted into a patient care area.

Kim calls this fight exhausting both physically and emotionally.

“The moral harm caused by seeing code blue after code blue after code blue of patients who have not survived this illness,” he said.

Now, Corona Regional and other hospitals across the country are getting help fighting this pandemic from the United States National Guard.

“It’s chaos,” Lt. Kristy Phalof the California National Guard said of the COVID-19 crisis.

She says coronavirus cases has risen so quickly, that during the past month, National Guard COVID-19 response teams have increased from six to 20 teams in California alone.

“I always say that we’re just a band-aid; we’re a temporary fix for this pandemic,” Phal said. “The big picture is all the civilians, doctors, nurses, the front-line personnel.”

The National Guard is making a big impact on that big picture and the numbers support it. Nationwide in 2020, the National Guard tested 12.8 million people for COVID-19, delivered 170,000 items of PPE and increased bed capacity at alternate care facilities by 15,800.

“By doing what we do, we are alleviating the pressure from the civilian side of it just one step at a time,” Phal said.

The next step in hopefully ending this pandemic, the National Guard will start helping administer vaccinations, something staff at hospitals like Corona Regional fully support.

“The virus is a biological thing; it doesn’t care about care about our politics or our beliefs,” Kim said. “So, it’s really up to us as human beings to rise to the occasion and to support each other as human beings.”