Air Force team helps Yuma hospital care for COVID-19 patients

By Greg Hahne
Associated Press
Published: Tuesday, January 18, 2022 - 3:28pm
Updated: Wednesday, January 19, 2022 - 9:36am
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Needing assistance due to staff shortages and increasing numbers of COVID-19 patients, including some requiring high levels of care, Yuma Regional Medical Center applied to the federal government for help.

That call was answered two weeks ago with the arrival of a 15-member Air Force medical augmentation team. Now about halfway through a 30-day deployment at Yuma Regional, the team’s members are stepping in to help the hospital’s personnel wherever help is needed, the Yuma Sun reported.

That help has been essential for providing faster, more attentive care for patients, whether it’s putting an extra set of eyes on patients’ vital signs or freeing up hospital staff to attend to developing situations, said Kymberly Miller, a COVID-19 unit nursing director for the hospital.

”With more people involved in their care, you can provide for emergent situations … and the better the outcomes will be,” Miller said.

The augmentation team includes a doctor, a physician’s assistant, five nurses and a handful of technicians. Most were deployed from Eglin Air Force Base in Florida. Others came from Hanscom Air Force Base in Massachusetts, Hill Air Force Base in Utah and Edwards Air Force Base in California.

Maj. Katherine Kasch, the team’s commander, is among those deployed from Eglin.

Kasch said she and other nurses on the team are registered nurses “so we can function at that capacity,” but need some assistance on using the hospital’s documentation system.

“The nurses at YRMC have been very welcoming and grateful,” Kasch said. “They’ve been doing this for two years. Anything they can get as far as assistance, especially when some of the patients have higher acuity requiring more care, makes a big difference.”

Most of team members’ prior deployments were overseas “so it’s been great actually being able to help people in the U.S., to alleviate some of the suffering from people in Yuma,” Kasch said. “I’m very honored to have been selected to come here. It gives more meaning to my mission.”

Kasch said the team’s members have learned to switch gears quickly to work together as a team. She shared that they constantly ask each other if they’re OK.

“You want to make sure everyone has some resource,” Kasch said. “It’s constant interaction with each other to alleviate the homesickness … we try to do team building stuff.”

Since the team has been in Yuma, two members have had birthdays and Kasch said one of their team building activities involved a birthday celebration since it’s hard being away from family.

“Everybody has husbands and children and family members behind,” she said. “We don’t want them to worry about us. We’re constantly checking on each other.”

The nurses at Yuma Regional have been welcoming and made the experience good in spite of the situation at hand, Kasch said. “They tell us about places to go see and things to do to take advantage of being out here.”

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