Military medics deployed to support Confluence Health COVID-19 efforts

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U.S. Army Capt. Alexis Acuna, a critical care nurse assigned to the 627th Hospital Center, provides care to a COVID positive patient at Kootenai Health regional medical center in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, Sept. 26, 2021. A similar military medical team was assigned Tuesday to Confluence Health in Wenatchee. (U.S. Army photo/Sgt. Kaden D. Pitt)

WENATCHEE — A 20-member U.S. military medical team has deployed to Wenatchee-based Confluence Health to aid the healthcare system’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Army’s unified North American command announced Tuesday.

The team is one of two deployed to Washington hospitals at the urging of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, after a Sept. 20 request for military assistance from Gov. Jay Inslee. The other 20-member team will provide medical support at Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center in Spokane.

U.S. Army North, a formation under oversight of U.S Northern Command, will provide operational command of the active-duty military COVID-19 response in support of federal efforts and the states. U.S. Northern Command is the Army unified command dedicated to providing military support for non-military authorities within the United States.

“Our service members are working tirelessly to provide the best care possible to hospitals and communities in need,” Lt. Gen. John R. Evans, Jr., U.S. Army North commander, said in a press release. “As defenders of our nation, they are deployed within the homeland to support our local, state and federal partners as we work together to defeat COVID-19.”

The military medical teams include nurses, respiratory therapists and medical doctors from the U.S. Navy. Nine other such teams are currently deployed in U.S hospitals in Idaho, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Tennessee. The Idaho team is providing support at Kootenai Health regional medical center in Coeur d’Alene.

As of Tuesday, Confluence Health was caring for 42 COVID-19 patients at Central Washington Hospital, eight of them requiring intensive care.

Washington hospitals have wrestled with a decline in staffing since the pandemic took hold in March 2020, and many hospitalized COVID-19 patients require continuous care involving large numbers of nurses and technicians. A requirement for all healthcare workers to be fully vaccinated for COVID took effect Monday, with opponents warning that further staff losses were likely under the mandate.

Military personnel are also working under COVID-19 vaccine requirements. Air Force members must be fully vaccinated by Nov. 2, Navy and Marine Corps by Nov. 28, and Army enlistees by Dec. 15, or face separation from service.