U.S. Air Force

Medical Military Members Deployed to CT, Helping Local Healthcare Workers

NBC Universal, Inc.

It’s been a little over two weeks since three Connecticut hospitals opened their doors to extra medical help from the U.S. military.

After a long two years of responding to COVID-19, local health care workers said their presence has been a welcome relief.

“It has allowed our staff to work at the ideal staffing number which has really helped ease some of the burden that was gone through with the pandemic,” said Ruth Bell, a nurse manager in the medical ICU at Hartford Hospital.

There are around 20 active-duty Air Force members working at each of these hospitals: Hartford Hospital, St. Francis Hospital, and Yale New Haven Hospital.

They are expected on site for a month as part of the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s COVID-19 surge response. The hospital can request to extend their stay.

“We’ve faced unprecedented challenges in the last few years with COVID, so having them as part of the team has been a huge boost to the morale of the team,” said Kirsten Fazzino, the director of nursing for neuroscience at Hartford Hospital.

Major Stuart Kent Brigham is taking time away from his family and five kids in Texas to help us out here Connecticut.

“I’m happy to be here,” he said.

Brigham is a U.S. Air Force internal medical physician leading the group brought in to help St. Francis Hospital.

“So certainly, there’s a need at this hospital. There’s been a lot of overworking when it comes to the staff, when it comes to the physicians, when it comes to the nurses,” Brigham said.

So, these workers are taking on open shifts—empty for a variety of reasons.

“It’s been a little bit of everything, you know, a lot of people have left healthcare altogether across the nation. In the state of CT, we’re no different. People have been out with COVID. People have been out with their families who are sick, not to mention that people are out with other illness that they get during this time,” said St. Francis Hospital’s Chief Medical Officer Dr. David Shapiro.

Down the road at Hartford Hospital, Bimal Patel, the hospital’s president, shares similar sentiments about the shortage of workers. Patel said his hospital is not in a situation where they can’t provide a certain service, but these additional hands help.

“There is a national shortage of healthcare workers and so we are experiencing a similar trend plus or minus a few, so having this additional support from FEMA certainly enhances our ability to care for our communities,” Patel said.

Shapiro adds while his team members are grateful this extra help, “We have to celebrate both are own staff who are just amazing providers, healthcare providers with such exceptional resilience, ability and just wherewithal, to keep smiling, keep doing their jobs every day. We only get complimented by folks like these who come in and still have a smile on their face after doing this constantly, being transitioned from place to place to place.”

Stuart said while he usually serves abroad, he hopes this deployment improves how people view military service and what enlisted doctors like him do on a day-to-day basis.

“We can tell that our presence here is really helped improve their morale and also give them light at the end of the tunnel when it comes to understanding that any staffing shortage needs that they have in the present time is a temporary issue and hopefully can be solved in the near future.”

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