FEMA team working at Strong Hospital for next 30 days

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — FEMA has deployed a team of 40 Air Force doctors, nurses and surgical technicians to Rochester. They’ll spend at least the next 30 days working at Strong Memorial Hospital to help ease major staffing shortages amid a surge of demand for care.

Lt. Col. Allan Delgado is a U.S. Air Force Family and Aerospace Medicine nurse practitioner who is leading up the team. He’s stationed in Nevada but for now, he’s living in Rochester and working at Strong.

“I’ve been currently going through the internal medicine clinic here and seeing patients that are coming through, working alongside the staff,” he told News10NBC.

It’s a different setting than he’s used to in the Air Force but it’s not totally unfamiliar.

“Instead of having a lot more active duty, we do still see dependent care and our warfighters past and present that we still take care of so, co-morbidities are very similar so we’re still… medicine is still medicine,” Lt. Col. Delgado said.

Strong Hospital is happy to have Lt. Col Delgado’s team of doctors, nurses, surgical and medical technicians for at least the next 30 days.

“It’s been a real morale booster having roughly 40 extra people in our organization,” said Kathy Parrinello, the Executive Vice President of Strong Hospital.

Jennifer Lewke (News10NBC) – Are they there more as relief for your overstressed staff or are they there to expand capacity?

Kathy Parrinello – A little bit of both. Even though the COVID numbers are going down, the number of patients requiring hospitalization isn’t going down. We are able to place this military team in areas that allows us to then move our staff around to cover other types of patients. So, having the clinicians, the physicians, nurse practitioners and registered nurses here has been a big boost because it’s added flexibility for us as to how we carry out our assignments.

Parrinello said conditions worsened when people had to delay surgeries or care during the most recent COVID surge and now their situations have turned urgent.

“We are finding that some of this backlog and patient need is creating continued high census we are licensed for 866 beds we frequently have over 900 patients,” she said.

The FEMA team is a temporary solution. After 30 days, the deployment will be re-evaluated to see if it will be extended.

In the meantime, Strong Hospital says it’s working on more permanent solutions.

“We continue to actively and avidly recruit new staff,” Parrinello said. “We have a number of people, particularly nurses, that graduated in December that will be starting or have started and are in orientation so we continue to try and shore up our numbers of staff that we have.”