Air Force team assists Yuma Hospital in caring for COVID patients

YUMA, Ariz. (AP) — Yuma Regional Medical Center, in need of assistance due to staff shortages and a rising number of COVID-19 patients, including some who require high levels of care, has applied to the federal government for help.

That call was answered two weeks ago with the arrival of a 15-person Air Force medical reinforcement team. About halfway through a 30-day deployment at Yuma Regional, members of the team jump in to help hospital staff wherever help is needed, the Yuma Sun reported.

That help has been critical in providing faster and more attentive care to patients, whether it’s keeping a better eye on patients’ vital signs or freeing up hospital staff for evolving situations, said Kymberly Miller, director of care for the COVID-19 unit for the hospital.

“With more people involved in their care, you can be prepared for emergency situations… and the better the outcomes will be,” Miller said.

The backup team consists of a doctor, a doctor’s assistant, five nurses and a handful of technicians. Most were deployed from Eglin Air Force Base, Florida. Others came from Hanscom Air Force Base in Massachusetts, Hill Air Force Base in Utah and Edwards Air Force Base in California.

Maj. Katherine Kasch, the team’s commander, is among those deployed from Eglin.

Kasch said she and other nurses on the team are registered nurses “so we can work in that capacity” but need some assistance using the hospital’s documentation system.

“The nurses at the YRMC were very hospitable and grateful,” said Kasch. “You’ve been doing this for two years. Any support they can get makes a huge difference, especially when some of the patients have higher vision and need more care.”

Most of the team members’ previous assignments have been overseas, “so it was great to actually be able to help the people of the United States and alleviate the suffering of the people of Yuma,” Kasch said. “I’m very honored to have been chosen to come here, it gives more meaning to my mission.”

Kasch said members of the team learned to switch quickly to work together as a team. She shared that they keep asking each other if they’re okay.

“You want to make sure everyone has some resources,” Kasch said. “It’s the constant interaction with each other to ease the homesickness … we try to do team building stuff.”

Since the team is in Yuma, two members have had birthdays and Kasch said one of their team building activities included a birthday party as it’s hard being away from family.

“Everyone has husbands and children and family members behind them,” she said. “We don’t want them to worry about us. We constantly check each other.”

Despite the current situation, Yuma Regional nurses were friendly and made the experience good, Kasch said. “They tell us about sights and things to do to be out here.”

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