Hospitals statewide welcoming staffing help from National Guard

PRINCETON, W.Va. — Princeton Community Hospital (PCH), one of the more than two dozen hospitals that have requested support from the West Virginia National Guard, is in dire need of staffing help.

The hospital has been at full capacity as the Omicron variant of COVID-19 continues to surge. All beds in both inpatients and the intensive care unit are full.

Karen Bowling

“There are times when there seems to be an increase in the number of COVID cases and then they’ll go down. it’s an up and down situation. I think right now in the winter months, we are at a peak,” Karen Bowling, President and CEO at Princeton Community Hospital told MetroNews Monday.

The high number of admissions has forced PCH to send patients to nearby hospitals.

The Guard plans to send 10 members to PCH on Tuesday to help with administrative tasks. Bowling said the hospital is short-staffed due to the virus impacting workers.

“Many of our employees are out because of omicron. The good news is they are having mild illnesses and they’re able to come back after the recommended timeframe from the CDC. Just the sheer number of employees out creates the staffing challenges we see,” she said.

Charleston Area Medical Center welcomed the Guard last week. State InterAgency Task Force Director Jim Hoyer said Monday 25 hospitals at 27 sites have requested help from the Guard with an additional 188 members in training.

James Hoyer

“They’re providing support for everything from transporting everything from transporting patients to X-rays or procedures, providing screening support in the entries to the hospitals — anything to relieve pressure off of providers,” Hoyer said during Monday’s coronavirus media briefing at the state Capitol.

The emergency room at PCH is still available for those needing services. Hospital staff said to help reduce wait times, only come if there is a medical emergency and seek COVID testing at offsite testing locations.

On Saturday, a woman was arrested for allegedly biting and punching an ER staff member at PCH. Princeton police took Melissa Compton into custody. Compton is accused of wrestling on the floor with the staff member during an argument regarding the hospital’s policies. When officers arrived, they noticed the security guard was bleeding from his eye, nose and finger.

Compton was charged with malicious wounding, battery, battery on a Police Officer, and battery on a healthcare worker. She’s being held in the Southern Regional Jail.

As many as 350 members will be trained to help in hospital if needed. West Virginia Adjutant General Bill Crane tweeted out a hospital support graph on Monday:

Denise Toler of WVU Medicine/Jackson General Hospital called it a “full house.” The hospital welcomed five Guard members Monday.

Jackson General Hospital

“We’re working within the system to get people moved to a higher facility of additional services that they may need, but we are seeing an abundance of individuals coming in with the sickness,” Toler told MetroNews affiliate WMOV Radio in Ravenswood.

Toler is recommending people who are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 stay away from the hospital campus to prevent further spread of the virus.

“If you are not feeling well, do not come in to see your loved one. Do a video call or stand outside the window,” she said.

The Guard’s help will allow them to rearrange their staffing needs, Toler said.

“It’s allowing us to use staff in other areas that we need them with their expertise, so it’s a huge help to us,” she said.

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