DeWine orders 1,050 National Guard members to help ‘dire’ hospital staffing issues

COLUMBUS — To deal with critical staffing issues at Ohio hospitals, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine has activated over 1,000 members of the Ohio National Guard to help fill staffing gaps.

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During a news conference Friday, DeWine called the staffing situation “dire” and ordered 1,050 National Guard members into hospitals to assist in the staffing levels. Additionally the state is working with an Ohio-based staffing agency to help bring qualified healthcare staff from out of state to also help in the staffing issues during the holidays.

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National Guard members will start arriving at hospitals Monday. Of those National Guard members, 150 are trained nurses, EMTs, and other healthcare personnel. The other 900 members will be non-medical to help with other hospital issues, DeWine said.

There is no timeline for the National Guard to leave, they will remain in the hospitals for as long as they are needed. More details on the staffing agency and number of nurses expected to be brought into the state will be released at another date after the deal between the agency and state is finalized.

The majority of the trained healthcare National Guard members will be sent to the northern part of the the state where hospitals are currently seeing the highest COVID hospitalizations and staffing issues. The other National Guard members will be sent throughout the state.

Earlier in the pandemic hospital concerns were over beds and space but today its staffing and personnel, DeWine said.

“Twenty-two months of this pandemic has taken its toll on our health care workers. And that is certainly, certainly understandable, DeWine said.

DeWine added in addition to hospital staff burnout, Ohio currently is seeing the highest number of hospitalizations since December 2020 and its approaching all-time high numbers.

DeWine said the vast majority of hospitalizations are unvaccinated individuals, with 9 out of 10 people hospitalized with COVID being unvaccinated.

DeWine said most of the hospitalizations are still caused by the delta variant, but omicron is here.

“Omicron is here and is fast spreading in Ohio as it is everywhere else,” he said.

With the struggle for beds and current staffing issues, many if not all hospitals in the northern zone of the state have announced plans to pause elective surgeries, DeWine announced. In the additional zones in southern and central Ohio, hospital leaders are making plans to implement a pause in elective surgeries.

DeWine said the state has seen some jumps in vaccine numbers with nearly 400,000 Ohioans getting their first shots since November. Additionally over 1.5 million Ohioans have received booster shots in the last 6 weeks.

Hospital leaders have also expressed concerns about the flu season that is just now starting to ramp up. Healthcare leaders have told the governor to expect a normal flu season this year, after a below-normal season last year mainly caused by COVID precautions and masking.

DeWine announced that he and his wife Fran had tested negative again after they were exposed to someone who tested positive for COVID earlier this week.