NY National Guard sends 120 troops to fill gaps in long term care staffing

  • Published
  • By Eric Durr
  • New York National Guard

ROCHESTER, N.Y.--The New York National Guard has deployed 120 Army medics and Air Force medical technicians to 12 nursing homes and long term care facilities located across the state to help ease staffing shortages.

The mission was directed by New York Governor Kathy Hochul and announced on Dec. 1, 2021.

The 120 Soldiers and Airmen are being deployed to 12 facilities in teams of two people.

The nursing facilities are located across the state from Long Island to Buffalo and north to the Canadian border.

The New York State Department of Health determined which facilities would be supported and how many support teams would be deployed to each.

In selecting Soldiers and Airmen for the mission, New York National Guard planners looked for personnel who were trained Medics or Medical Technicians, who were not also working in the health care field in their civilian life, according to Brig. Gen. Isabel Rivera Smith, the director of joint operations for the New York National Guard.

It makes no sense to take a young woman who is an Air Force med-tech and works at a hospital out of that job, only to place her in another health care facility, Smith explained.

The 120 Soldiers and Airmen mobilized for this mission are being funded through the ongoing federally funded COVID-19 mission. That funding was recently extended into the spring of 2022.

Prior to this latest mission, the New York National Guard was providing staffing at 13 vaccination sites, supporting six logistics sites, and putting together COVID-19 test kits.

This week the health teams had reported to locations in Syracuse, Rochester, Albany, Buffalo, Utica, Plattsburgh, Uniondale, Liberty, Vestal, Olean, Lyons and Goshen.

Monroe County Executive Adam Bello told Spectrum News Rochester that he hoped the National Guard troops would make a dent in the capacity problem plaguing the local health care system.

“We’re very grateful for their presence here and their help and support,” Bello said. “This is how we can help in the short-term, the hospital systems, is to turn on that pipeline from hospitals into nursing homes of residents that don’t need an acute care bed but would be better off in a nursing home setting.”

“For most of these medics, they have never worked in a nursing home so it’s still a little bit of a culture shock," Alyssa Tallo, the Monroe Community Hospital executive health director, told Spectrum News.

New York Air National Guard Master Sgt. Jeff Gray, a member of the 107th Attack Wing, said on Tuesday, that his team of himself and 11 Army Guard medics were being trained as nurses assistants to fill in staffing gaps.

The team is assigned to the Terrace View Long-Term Care Facility in Buffalo.

This is the latest in unusual missions the New York National Guard has conducted since the first 200 Soldiers and Airmen went on duty in response to the COVID-19 pandemic in March of 2020.

Since then over 6,500 personnel have been part of the mission at one point or another, including members of the state’s two volunteer forces, the New York Naval Militia and the New York Guard.

New York National Guard personnel have:
• Collected 3.07 million Covid-19 attestation forms at airports across the state;
• Supported the administration of 4.07 million vaccinations and Guard members have administered 122,754 shots;
• Collected 1,67 million Covid-19 tests;
• Put together 14.4 million Covid 19 test kits;
• Created a field hospital in New York City;
• Established the largest mass vaccination site in the country;
• Provided 54.8 million meals to needy New Yorkers;
• Fielded 278,162 phone calls seeking Covid-19 response information;
• Processed 57,445 pallets of supplies;
• And assisted the New York City Medical Examiner’s Office in recovering the remains of deceased New Yorkers.