Even with the availability of the COVID-19 vaccine to significantly reduce the chances of severe illness and hospitalizations, there are still areas in the country facing overwhelmed health care systems. Air Force medics continue to augment care, supporting civilian hospitals in hotspots across the country.
At the request of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, 20-person teams of Air Force medics, including nurses, physicians and respiratory therapists, have been deployed since the end of August to support civilian hospitals in Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi. This has been the first time during the entire COVID-19 pandemic that the Department of Defense has deployed military medics to Mississippi.
“Air Force medics have been engaged in the nation’s COVID-19 response since April 2020, and since that time approximately 3,000 Air Force medics have been tasked to deploy in support of the pandemic,” said Col. Colin Smyth, U.S. Air Force Director of Expeditionary Medical Policy and Operations. “Currently, our medics are providing augmentation to civilian hospitals primarily in the South.”
These teams have been working with interagency partners and sister services as a part of a whole-of-government response to assist with the surges in cases experienced at civilian hospitals in these states.
“These medics have provided critical support in addressing civilian staffing shortages, staff burn out, vaccination capacity, throughput, and logistics,” said Smyth.
Throughout the entirety of the COVID-19 pandemic, Air Force medics have showcased their responsiveness to surges across the country, embedding with joint teams and within civilian hospitals. Not only are Air Force medics ready to respond whenever they are needed, they are also provided an opportunity to build on lessons learned.
As Col. James Sampson, Chief Surgical Consultant to the Air Force Surgeon General, explains, these medics continue to support the nation in the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic in addition to ensuring the health and readiness of Service members.
“I cannot overstate the tremendous support Air Force medical personnel are providing to the DoD’s response to COVID,” said Sampson. “In addition to ensuring our deployed forces remain mission capable, Air Force medics have provided teams to support civilian response to COVID, supporting outpatient care, emergency care, inpatient hospitalizations and critical care, aeromedical transportation, testing, and vaccinations.”
Story adapted from article by Shireen Bedi, Air Force Medical Service