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Military medical teams arrive at two Los Angeles County hospitals

LOS ANGELES, CA-APRIL 23, 2020: Medical staff, wearing protective gear, work inside a Covid 19 isolation area, inside the emergency department at Los Angeles County+USC Medical Center in Los Angeles, where patients with the virus are being treated. (Mel Melcon/Los Angeles Times/TNS)

Medical professionals from the military have arrived in Los Angeles County to reinforce the ranks of two hospitals.

The Department of Defense sent the Air Force teams last week to Los Angeles County-USC and Harbor-UCLA medical centers, said Brian Ferguson, a spokesperson for the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services.

The move aims to shore up staff as the hospitals battle the COVID-19 pandemic. Ferguson said state authorities requested the support through the Federal Emergency Management Agency. The teams were then directed to hospitals struggling with staffing, supplies and capacity, he said.

“They may have medical personnel who themselves have tested positive, or they’re short staffed.… Some of our hospitals are facing scenarios where their staff numbers are depleted or they’re facing surges in the number of cases they’re treating,” he said. “It’s basically to provide surge staffing to hospitals in need.”

Ferguson declined to share specific information about the status of the two hospitals, but said the OES constantly monitors both facilities.

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Six more hospitals across the state recently received military medical professionals: Adventist Health Lodi Memorial in Lodi, Eisenhower Medical Center in Rancho Mirage, Kaweah Delta Medical Center in Visalia, Adventist Health Hanford in Hanford, Dameron Hospital in Stockton and Community Regional Medical Center in Fresno.

In total, Ferguson said, the deployment sent 190 medical professionals to California hospitals.

Spokespeople from Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center and Harbor-UCLA confirmed the arrival of military teams through identical email statements. They wrote that the teams arrived Friday “and will be used to support operation of hospital critical care units amidst growing COVID-19 hospitalizations.”

The hospitals’ statements said the teams are typically deployed for 30 days. Ferguson said the state could submit an extension, if necessary.

He said the arrival of medical teams proves California has learned how to work with and benefit from federal emergency response authorities through the experience of wildfires and other critical situations.

“When we have gaps or needs, we’re able to get those filled by the federal government,” Ferguson added.

This fill-in will help the state’s hard-stretched medical workers.

“Allowing our doctors, nurses, other medical professionals to have additional support is an important part of the work that we’re doing,” Ferguson said.

Los Angeles County reported 2,011 new COVID-19 cases and 15 additional deaths Monday. Data released Sunday reported that 2,051 coronavirus patients were hospitalized across the county, 596 of which were said to be in intensive care. The county Department of Public Health described the data as incomplete “due to delays in the state electronic lab reporting system,” and said the numbers were probably underreported.

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© 2020 the Los Angeles Times