National Guard Deploying Once Again To Nantucket Cottage Hospital

Members of the Massachusetts National Guard have once again deployed to Nantucket Cottage Hospital for the second time during the pandemic. 

Two soldiers from the Army National Guard – Sgt. Romeo Grey and Private First Class Mario Reid – arrived on the island Tuesday and will be staying in Nantucket Cottage Hospital housing for what is expected to be a three-month assignment to support non-clinical operations at the hospital, including patient observation.

While the first National Guard deployment to Nantucket in April 2020 was born out of concern the hospital could become overwhelmed during a surge of COVID-19 patients, this time around it is more of an acknowledgment of the severe staffing shortages hospitals are facing amid another rise in COVID-19 cases driven by the omicron variant.

“They’re here to support the hospital and our clinicians above all else,” said James Lanza, the hospital’s public information manager. “They’re not here for a security role or any law enforcement activities.”

As of Tuesday morning, Nantucket Cottage Hospital had three patients hospitalized with COVID-19, which “is not something that is overwhelming our capacity but it’s still cause for concern,” Lanza said.

Governor Charlie Baker announced last week that he would activate up to 500 members of the Massachusetts National Guard for non-clinical support of hospitals and medical transport systems to alleviate the impacts of rising COVID-19 cases and staffing shortages. Nantucket Cottage Hospital (NCH) is one of 55 hospitals across Massachusetts where the National Guard will be deployed.

The two National Guard soldiers assigned to NCH will be trained to serve as patient observers – providing continuous observation of patients who are at risk for harm to themselves – as well as conduct in-hospital patient and lab specimen transports, which are among the five key roles identified by Gov. Baker’s administration for the National Guard personnel being activated. Patient observers – sometimes called “sitters” – are in high demand at Nantucket Cottage Hospital, where behavioral health patients are often boarded for several days before they can be transported to an licensed psychiatric facility off-island. Delays in finding and holding beds at those facilities, along with the logistics of transferring behavioral health patients by ferry, often exacerbate the need for patient observers over extended periods of time. 

“Having an extra set of hands around the hospital as our volume increases and patient caseload increases is of tremendous value to everyone at NCH,” Lanza said. “By having these soldiers on site, it ensures our clinicians are able to focus on their clinical role, and it frees up an NCH staff member so they can practice medicine.”

Four members of the Massachusetts National Guard were previously deployed to NCH in April 2020 at the outset of the pandemic when it was believed they would be needed to provide security and logistical support in the event of a surge of COVID-19 patients at the hospital – one that never materialized. The service members were stationed at NCH for several months and augmented the hospital’s security manager and local police as needed during that assignment. 

While the soldiers will once again be wearing their uniforms during their time at the hospital, Lanza said they will not be armed or wearing any tactical gear as they did during the 2020 deployment.

The list of Massachusetts hospitals where National Guard members are being deployed includes: 

  • Addison Gilbert Hospital
  • Baystate Franklin Medical Center
  • Baystate Medical Center
  • Baystate Noble Hospital
  • Baystate Wing Hospital
  • Berkshire Medical Center
  • Beverly Hospital
  • Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital-Milton
  • Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital-Needham
  • Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital-Plymouth
  • Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center
  • Boston Children’s Hospital
  • Boston Medical Center
  • Brigham and Women’s Faulkner Hospital
  • Brigham and Women’s Hospital
  • Cambridge Health Alliance-Cambridge
  • Cambridge Health Alliance-Everett
  • Carney Hospital
  • Cooley Dickinson Hospital
  • Emerson Hospital
  • Fairview Hospital
  • Good Samaritan Medical Center
  • Harrington Hospital
  • Heywood Hospital
  • Holy Family Hospital
  • Holy Family Merrimack
  • Holyoke Medical Center
  • Lahey Hospital and Medical Center
  • Lawrence General Hospital
  • Lowell General Hospital
  • Martha’s Vineyard Hospital
  • Massachusetts General Hospital
  • MetroWest Framingham
  • Milford Regional Medical Center
  • Morton Hospital
  • Mount Auburn
  • Nantucket Cottage Hospital
  • Nashoba Valley Medical Center
  • Newton Wellesley Hospital
  • North Shore Medical Center
  • Saint Vincent Hospital
  • Signature Brockton Hospital
  • South Shore Hospital
  • Southcoast Hospital-Charlton
  • Southcoast Hospital-St. Lukes
  • Southcoast Hospital-Tobey
  • Saint Anne’s Hospital
  • St. Elizabeth’s Medical Center
  • Sturdy Memorial Hospital
  • Tufts Medical Center
  • UMass Memorial Health-Marlborough Hospital
  • UMass Memorial Memorial
  • UMass Memorial University
  • UMass Memorial HealthAlliance-Clinton Hospital
  • UMass Memorial HealthAlliance- Leominster Campus

This story will be updated. 

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