Navy’s top medical officers visit Confluence Health military aid team

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U.S. Navy Rear Adm. Bruce L. Gillingham, left, Navy Surgeon General, and Navy Medicine's Force Master Chief Michael Roberts present Ens. Traci Walker a challenge coin for her work in pandemic respone at Central Washington Hospital in Wenatchee, Nov. 21, 2021. (U.S. Navy photo/Sgt. Yesenia Barajas)

WENATCHEE — As they mustered out after helping to treat the COVID-19 surge in Wenatchee’s hospital, Navy servicemembers got a sendoff from some military bigwigs.

On Sunday, Surgeon General of the U.S. Navy Rear Admiral Bruce Gillingham and Hospital Corps Force Master Chief Michael Roberts visited with Confluence Health staff and the 20 Navy medics who’ve worked alongside them for the last month. The team was ending a 30-day rotation to help Central Washington Hospital cope with the flood of COVID patients being cared for amid the worst surge of the pandemic.

While there, the Navy leaders awarded challenge coins to the assigned medics for their teamwork during the emergency.

U.S. Navy Hospital Corps Force Master Chief Michael Roberts meets Athena, a dog adopted by a Navy ensign during deployment at Confluence Health. (U.S. Navy photo/Sgt. Yesenia Barajas)

They also got to meet Athena, a dog that Navy Ensign Traci Walker adopted from the Wenatchee Valley Human Society during her deployment. Walker is regularly assigned to Navy Medicine Readiness and Training Command in Portsmouth, Virginia, and volunteered at the Wenatchee animal shelter in off hours from her medical duties.

Sailors assisting in the Central Washington Hospital effort were deployed from Florida, Illinois and Virginia.

As of Wednesday 23 people were being treated for COVID-19 at Central Washington Hospital, including 11 under intensive care — the lowest figure for pandemic hospitalizations in the last three months. When the Navy team arrived, Confluence Health was caring for 42 COVID-19 patients.