PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — The federal government is sending medical teams to six states, including Rhode Island, to help overwhelmed medical facilities.
President Joe Biden announced Thursday that teams of military doctors, nurses and other medical professionals will be going to Rhode Island Hospital in Providence and Kent Hospital in Warwick.
According to Gov. Dan McKee’s office, a 14-member team from the National Disaster Medical System will arrive at Kent as early as next week to support the hospital’s emergency department and medical/surgical unit for two weeks.
A Department of Defense team of 23 medical personnel will do the same for 30 days at Rhode Island Hospital starting as early as the end of next week, McKee’s office said.
They’ll be among about 1,000 medical personnel being deployed to Rhode Island and five other states: New York, New Jersey, Ohio, Michigan and New Mexico.
These teams will provide relief by triaging patients, helping to decompress overwhelmed emergency departments, and freeing up health care providers to continue other crucial care.
It’s not the first wave of medical professionals helping hospitals nationwide.
“Just since last Thanksgiving, over 800 military personnel and other federal emergency personnel have been deployed to 24 states and tribes,” Biden note.
Last month, McKee sent a letter to Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Director Deanne Criswell requesting support in personnel to help the hospitals in the state he said have been understaffed since well before the pandemic.
“Today, I am encouraged that President Biden has announced that Rhode Island will receive a team of FEMA emergency medical personnel arriving over the next couple of weeks,” McKee said in a statement. “I thank the president for recognizing the crucial need in Rhode Island and stepping up to ensure we were included as one of six states receiving this vital support.”
This is different than the announcement McKee made on Wednesday where the National Guard was called to help at Butler Hospital. The Guard’s assistance will allow Care New England to open up more beds at Butler for “non-critical” patients and relieve some of the pressure on other hospitals.
The call for assistance comes as 90% of the cases in Rhode Island are estimated to be the omicron variant, which is up from 45% last week, according to Health Director Dr. Nicole Alexander-Scott.
Data from the Rhode Island Department of Health shows that as of Tuesday, there were 484 COVID-19 patients in the state’s hospitals, with 50 in the intensive care unit and 35 on ventilators.
On Wednesday, the Health Department reported 4,844 new positive cases and 12 additional COVID-19-related deaths.