WASHINGTON -- Military doctors and nurses are fanning out across New York hospitals to offer relief to their overworked civilian counterparts as the COVID-19 pandemic hits the city hard.
Three members of Joint Task Force New York-New Jersey — Air Force Col. (Dr.) Jennifer R. Ratcliff, commander of the 927th Aerospace Medical Squadron at MacDill Air Force Base, Florida; Army Lt. Col Leslie Curtis, chief nurse officer for the 9th Field Hospital, Fort Hood, Texas; and Navy Capt. (Dr.) Joseph J. Kochan, executive officer for Operational Health Support Unit in Portsmouth, Virginia — briefed the news media on their COVID-19 efforts via telephone today.
"We really are here to support the citizens of the state of New York and support [the Federal Emergency Management Agency system], as long as we're needed," Kochan said.
"The benefit of the military is we are scalable. We have different teams out in [New York City] and in different environments, such as in the [Jacob K. Javits Convention Center]. We can be utilized in whatever ways the city, state or this region requires," Ratcliff said.
Military doctors and nurses are working 12 hours or more a day in a world that runs 24/7, officials said.
"We've been bringing in 20 to 30 nurses a day, onboarding them to the agencies," Curtis noted. "Then they 'shadow' for a day or two and are then put on a schedule."
"Combining the staffs of military and civilian doctors and nurses during a pandemic has never been done before," Curtis said. "This is an extraordinary time in history where we've come together in all the services, providing [care] in a tough situation that requires us to really take heed of the environment."
Military medical professionals who integrated into civilian hospitals went out to the hospitals and asked what their needs were, Kochan said. "What we're doing is whatever the hospital needs. We're filling that need as best we can," he added.
"What I find interesting is that once we were credentialed within these hospitals, how quickly we've been able to actually integrate and how welcoming the city has been," Ratcliff told reporters. "We're fresh faces. We've got the energy and the enthusiasm to really help the people that are tired and have been working very, very long days and weeks."
The Navy sent about 200 doctors and nurses to New York City, Kochan said, adding that they have various skill sets, specialties and backgrounds from all over the country. "We push them out into teams based on what the hospitals have asked for to fill in the critical needs they have," he said.