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Providenc's Newberg facility increases personnel, welcomes National Guard soldiers' help.

COURTESY PHOTO: PNMC - On Sept. 10, more than 30 soldiers participated in orientation to work at Providence Newberg Medical Center. They began working at the facility the following day and will continue for about a month.

The ravages of the COVID-19 pandemic have been well documented over the past 18 months, and the Newberg area has not been immune to the tremendous losses visited on individuals, families and businesses by the virus.

At the center of the response to the worst worldwide pandemic in the past 103 years, area hospitals and public health departments continue the fight for the health of a nation.

Providence Newberg Medical Center is no different.

Last week, the local facility announced the steps it is taking to address the delta variant and the anticipated increased volume of COVID-19 patients as they overwhelm area health care services.

Although a Newberg assisted living facility was the original Yamhill County hotspot for COVID-19 at the beginning of the pandemic, PNMC hasn't seen inflated numbers of patients over the past 18 months. That appears to be changing.

"We have seen an increase of COVID-positive patients in the medical center and (are) currently treating 11 COVID patients," hospital spokesman Mike Antrim said Sept. 14.

The facility has created a "surge plan," Antrim said, that includes additional waiting areas and inpatient beds. It has also accepted help from military personnel after Gov. Kate Brown deployed soldiers to some of the state's cities worst hit by the pandemic.

"National Guard service members are supporting the medical center as extra hands, such as access monitors/temperature screeners, nutritional services support, engineering (facilities) support and environmental services support," Antrim said, adding that on Sept. 10, more than 30 soldiers participated in orientation; they began working at the facility the following day and will continue for about a month.

"The majority of support is by having extra hands on deck to help with stocking supplies, cleaning or even working in the kitchen," he said. "Also, their presence at our main entrances helps reinforce our message of keeping everyone safe by following our visitation guidelines and masking policy."

Antrim, a veteran of more than 18 years at PNMC, said he could not remember a previous time when soldiers were deployed to the facility. All told, more than 350 soldiers are working in Providence medical facilities across the state.

On a regional level, Providence's response includes the addition of so-called "fatality management trucks" at Providence Portland and Providence St. Vincent hospitals. The refrigeration trailers were added because "hospital morgues hold fewer than 10 deceased people and funeral homes are having difficulty keeping up," a release from the organization said.

Prior to their installation, the temporary morgues were blessed by Providence chaplains: "In alignment with Providence's mission and values, these units are sacred spaces and an extension of the compassionate and dignified care we provide in our hospital."

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