The Tennessee National Guard is coming to help Blount Memorial Hospital amid the country’s growing COVID-19 crisis.
“We did request assistance from the National Guard,” BMH Director of Public Relations and Marketing Jennie Bounds said. “We have been told that we will get two nonclinical support staff who will be used in our outpatient testing and treatment locations. We are not receiving any clinical support at this time.”
This comes as cases of COVID-19 continue to skyrocket across the county. Bounds said there are currently 55 COVID-19 patients being treated at Blount Memorial, with 14 of those patients currently in the ICU.
The arrival of the National Guard is indicative of just how quickly the COVID-19 situation in Blount County has deteriorated. On Aug. 17, when asked about the possibility of the National Guard being deployed to Blount Memorial, Bounds stated: “As of now, there is no plan for them to come to our hospital.”
However, in the past 10 days, the number of COVID-19 patients in the ICU at Blount Memorial has more than doubled. Amid the surge, Blount Memorial has started pulling clinical staff who serve business and industries back to the hospital to help handle the influx of patients.
Alcoa City Manager Mark Johnson said a BMH nurse who serves the city’s medical clinic recently was called back to the hospital, adding that he also knows of businesses in Alcoa where this has happened.
Spokespeople for the local DENSO and Arconic plants confirmed BMH staff who were working with those companies had to return to the hospital.
“The simple answer is yes, we are one of those companies,” DENSO Corporate Services Manager Bob emailed Friday when asked about the situation.
Five members of the nursing staff and one emergency medication technician were pulled from Arconic to do full-time duty at the hospital, according to Christy Newman, manager of communications and community relations for Arconic Tennessee Operations.
A nurse and nurse practitioner usually assigned to the employee clinic for Maryville City Schools also have been told to report to the hospital next week, according to MCS Director Mike Winstead.
In many cases, this may force employees to seek health services they usually got at their place of work from personal physicians instead.
When asked about nurses and physicians being recalled to the hospital, Bounds stated: “All clinical staff who serve business and industry are being pulled to areas of need throughout the organization at this time. I can’t speak to specific locations and numbers.”
As of Aug. 26, Blount County had recorded 1,114 active cases of COVID-19. There have been 18,319 total cases identified in the county since the start of the pandemic, and 210 Blount Countians have died from the virus.
Daily Times reporters Andrew Jones and Amy Beth Miller contributed to this report.