GREEN BAY – Ten members of the Wisconsin National Guard were called up to serve in Green Bay to work with discharged patients in a wing of the Odd Fellow Nursing Home and to ease some of the capacity pressures of Bellin Hospital.
Odd Fellow Home, a facility that provides skilled nursing, rehabilitation and therapy care, will be receiving assistance as part of a “relief mission” to remove patients from Bellin Hospital.
The guards will begin their training to become certified nursing assistants on Monday in Bellin. You will then move into the Odd Fellow Home so the facility can open part of its 20 bed wing.
The collaboration means non-COVID-19 patients ready to be discharged to nursing homes will have beds and more trained staff for the additional care.
During their stay at the facility, the guards are supervised by nurses from Bellin. According to Bellin, the nursing assistants will remain on duty until mid-March.
“We are grateful to the National Guard for providing us with this much-needed assistance at this critical time,” said Chris Woleske, President and CEO of Bellin Health, in a statement released Thursday.
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The deployment to the Green Bay facility is part of an overall plan announced by Governor Tony Evers Thursday that will see at least 200 beds in care facilities across the state opened by the end of February.
This initial deployment of 50 guards is the first of three mobilization steps. Another 80 Guard members will have completed their initial training by the end of January. Another 80 members of the Guard will follow at the beginning of February and deploy at the end of February.
“As we continue to see an increase in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, we are pursuing every available option to staff the Wisconsin health systems,” said Evers.
The announcement follows another attempt in December to deploy a team of 23 Navy medical personnel to Bellin Hospital to help with the worsening COVID-19 crisis.
As of Thursday, nearly 200 patients with COVID-19 had been admitted to the 10 hospitals in northeast Wisconsin, according to the Wisconsin Hospital Association. These hospitals have near-full intensive care units, 47 of which are due to COVID-19 patients. Of the 207 beds, only five intensive care beds are available.
Laura Hieb, Bellin Health’s Chief Nursing Office, sees this recent rush of relief as a sign that Green Bay hospitals can and should work together to minimize the effects of this latest devastating wave of COVID-19.
“Our goal is to expand this partnership to the other Green Bay hospitals to see how we can work together and expand this model to enable better access and a real collaborative approach to care,” said Hieb.
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Natalie Eilbert is a government watchdog reporter for the Green Bay Press-Gazette. You can reach her at [email protected] or view her Twitter profile at @natalie_eilbert.