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CA COVID-19 response: More medical staff requested as USNS Mercy ship unavailable


SACRAMENTO, Calif. (KRON) – California has requested 500 additional medical staff from the federal government to support the COVID-19 response as the USNS Mercy Hospital ship is not available, according to Cal OES.

The medical personnel would help staff hospitals, skilled nursing homes and medical surge hospitals.

The USNS Mercy Hospital ship is currently under mandatory maintenance, in dry dock, and is not able to be deployed at this time.

“As California continues to face unprecedented surges in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, the State is leveraging all available resources to support our front line medical workers. We continue to actively engage our federal engagement our federal partners at every turn and appreciate the assistance from our federal partners at FEMA, HHS and DoD on providing medical personnel and other assets, including in the past the deployment of the USNS Mercy,” said Cal OES Director Mark Ghilarducci.

During this time, Governor Gavin Newsom and Cal OES continue to coordinate with the White House to send help from FEMA and the United States Department of Defense to hospitals in Southern California.

“Bringing additional medical staff into the state will allow us to save lives and ensure our hospital systems are not overstretched,” said Governor Newsom. “Now is the time to use every resource at our disposal to fight the spread of this virus and protect Californians.”

In a press release, Cal OES officials state:

This request includes 360 DoD medical personnel, 135 United States Health and Human Services (USHHS) Disaster Medical Assistance Team personnel and an additional 50 FEMA personnel, bringing the current federal augmentation request to more than 500 staff.

This request would provide assistance to the 1,420 medical surge personnel already established across California.

This is part of the ongoing effort to relieve stress as cases surge and hospitalization capacity decreases.

The Cal OES statement goes on to say:

Additionally, to address the challenges in current oxygen delivery systems in many older hospitals in Southern California that are being overtaxed by the volume of oxygen flow required to treat patients with respiratory issues that arise from COVID-19, the Governor requested and deployed the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to evaluate oxygen delivery system upgrades in the Los Angeles region.

The Army Corps teams are currently completing the assessment on seven hospitals and will provide design and construction assessments, technical assistance, and other support as required.

The state of California has also opened several alternate care sites in an effort to decompress local hospital systems. These alternative care sites are providing care for patients who do not need care in an intensive care unit and easing the strain on the health care delivery system. This will allow hospitals to focus their resources on those with the most acute needs. View a list of current alternative care sites.

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