'All Hands On Deck' As National Guard Dispatched To UK HealthCare

Sep 20, 2021

National Guard members are now on the job at UK HealthCare’s medical storage facility, and while their numbers may be small, health officials say every bit of extra help is felt during this latest COVID-19 surge.

A National Guard member gathers medical supplies at UK HealthCare's medical supply hub in Lexington on September 20, 2021.
Credit Josh James / WUKY

It’s a gray Monday afternoon as a modest team, five of the more than 400 Guard members who have been dispatched to Kentucky hospitals, begin gathering and packing supplies at the warehouse off College Way. The crucial supply hub feeds all UK hospitals and clinics throughout the state, and just like at those facilities, it’s "all hands on deck."

"Usually we'd see two to three trucks a night," says logistic director Chris Petter. "Now we're seeing four or five trucks." 

UK is currently caring for around 144 COVID patients, down slightly from highs last week but still heavily taxing for the system.

Vice President for Hospital Operations Colleen Swartz says the expectation is that the influx of patients will stay relatively constant in the coming days. Whereas some countries witnessed a "fast burn" of the Delta variant with a sharp drop, she says the outlook is different in the commonwealth. 

"I think in Kentucky, based on our vaccination rates... social distancing and mask mandates, you can see that our curve is pretty fast up and then it's flattening and then it's coming down," she says. "So I think we'll probably hit a steady state for a while because we really see the recession in the numbers and infections that we'd like to see."

For now, UK remains among the nearly 70% of Kentucky hospital systems facing staffing shortages.