National Guard deployed to St. Rita’s

By Mackenzi Klemann - [email protected]

LIMA — Twenty National Guard members are stationed at Mercy Health-St. Rita’s Medical Center’s COVID-19 intensive care unit as the hospital sees record ICU patient levels.

The Guard members will assist with clinical and non-clinical needs, like patient transport and housekeeping, through at least Jan. 10 after Gov. Mike DeWine mobilized 2,300 Ohio National Guard troops in December to address hospital staffing shortages across the state.

“They’ve been a tremendous help,” said Dr. Matthew Owens, chief clinical officer for St. Rita’s. “Our teams are so grateful for the support that they’ve provided during this time.”

St. Rita’s reported a record 47 patients in intensive care, half of whom were being treated for COVID-19 as of Wednesday afternoon.

The overall COVID-19 patient census in Lima hospitals has plateaued after peaking in early December, but hospitals are busy with a resurgence of influenza and other respiratory illnesses that leaves little slack for another surge of coronavirus patients, especially as hospitals elsewhere in the state are overwhelmed by COVID-19.

And Lima hospitals have more employees out sick with COVID than at any other point in the pandemic, hospital leaders said Wednesday.

In turn, St. Rita’s is continuing to delay most elective procedures, while Lima Memorial Health System is evaluating which procedures it can handle daily, hospital leaders said.

The highly contagious omicron variant of coronavirus, which is now the dominant variant for new infections in the Midwest and U.S., has led to record-high daily coronavirus cases and hospitalizations in Ohio.

New infections in the Lima area are now starting to increase rapidly too, suggesting the variant is present here and that another surge in hospitalizations may be coming.

The surge in new infections has also made it difficult to find rapid tests.

Last week, Allen County Public Health distributed upward of 950 free take-home tests, all of which were gone within an hour. A similar situation unfolded Wednesday when the Putnam County Health Department ran out of take-home tests shortly after notifying the public that the tests were available.

By Mackenzi Klemann

[email protected]

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