Sgt. 1st Class Dugald Campbell, of the Oregon National Guard, poses for a photo in his mask. (Amanda Loman/Salem Reporter)
Members of the Oregon National Guard are heading to the Oregon State Hospital next week, undergoing training before assuming hospital roles as the hospital endures a staffing crisis caused by the pandemic.
State authorities announced Thursday that 30 members of the guard will arrive at the Salem psychiatric hospital on Monday, June 7, for training to provide care for patients through July 31.
Maj. Stephen Bomar, spokesman for the Oregon Military Department, said Gov. Kate Brown approved the deployment in coordination with Maj. Gen. Mike Stencel, the adjutant general Oregon.
Last week, the state hospital, which cares for about 500 hundred of the state’s most mentally ill people, took the unprecedented step of requesting help from the National Guard to bolster staffing levels.
The hospital has been short of nurses and other employees in large part because of the pandemic. Workers have taken leave because they don’t have childcare or need to care for relatives.
In recent weeks, one-third of the hospital’s nursing staff have been on Covid-related leave, according to statement issued by hospital officials.
Hospital spokeswoman Rebeka Gipson-King said the National Guard won’t provide nurses as requested by hospital officials. The members of the guard assigned to the hospital can help with serving meals and other patient care that doesn’t require a nursing license.
"That will still be incredibly useful and helpful," she said.
“Getting this help from the National Guard means the world to me and to the OSH community,” Superintendent Dolly Matteucci said in a statement. “Our patients deserve the best possible care, and with the National Guard’s help, we’re taking an important step in the right direction.”
The members of the guard assigned to the hospital must undergo training. They will be able to begin their duties on June 24, Gipson-King said, and will be paired with a staff mentor while on duty at the hospital.
She said a hospital call for managers from other state agencies to volunteer to assist at the hospital has so far yielded one person in training and two more who are being considered.
According to the statement, National Guard members have various levels of experience and will work with hospital employees to serve meals to patients, escort them to treatment or activities and other parts of daily life. Before starting work, they will complete a four-day orientation and nine days of onboarding to learn basic nursing duties, including de-escalation and how to respond to behavioral health emergencies. They will also complete 40 hours of orientation with a staff mentor.
Bomar said he didn't have a roster of those assigned to the hospital immediately available and couldn't say where they'll be reporting from.
Contact reporter Rachel Alexander: [email protected] or 503-575-1241.
Contact reporter Jake Thomas at 503-575-1251 or [email protected] or @jakethomas2009.
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