Nursing homes throughout Indiana are operating with a touch of military efficiency these days. Back in November Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb announced plans to put members of the Indiana National Guard to work in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities to try and lighten the load for overworked and over-stressed health care workers.
Currently, there are about 1,800 guardsmen on pandemic duty. Some of them in Daviess County but their presence has been met with some mixed results.
At Ketchum Memorial the addition of National Guard Troops has been welcome. “We have two that have been here for a couple of weeks,” said Ketchum Administrator Kathy Wittmer. “We have them screening in people, taking temperatures and I even had them doing a little paperwork. It is really working out well.”
The National Guard members also have reported to the Villages at Oak Ridge, Hillside Manor and Loogootee Nursing Center. Some of those facilities say that they only had the Guard members around for a short time before sending them away.
“We have not heard anything from the National Guard,” said Van Kavanaugh, administrator at Emerald Place. “They never came to our door so there is no way I can evaluate them.”
At the Washington Nursing Center officials are pleased with the National Guard.
“We have two that will be here through the end of the month,” said Reba Driskill, administrator at Washington Nursing Center. “We have had them taking temperatures and screening staff and visitors. We also have them entering some information that we forward to the CDC and they are doing some infections control by sanitizing some of the common areas. We have even got them involved in some of the resident’s activities.”
Sergeant Myra Beltron is one of the guard members now working in a nursing home.
“I never imagined when I signed up for the Guard that I would get activated into a pandemic,” said Beltron. “It has been an eye-opening experience. Now that we have been here a few weeks I understand how tired and frustrated the workers are.”
Administrators say the biggest positive the National Guard has brought is a willingness to do what they are asked and by taking on some of these tasks lightening the load on the staff.
“Each thing they do opens up a staff member to go provide some direct care to our residents,” said Wittmer. “It allows our activities staff to do more. Our staff is just exhausted and they are providing them with a break.”
“They have been very helpful,” added Driskill. “Whenever I ask them to do something they respond, we are here to serve. I have had zero issues with them. I think they are fabulous.”