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Federal COVID-19 strike team deployed to help WellSpan health

These special teams are trained to contribute to patient care and help alleviate strains due to the current surge of COVID-19.

PENNSYLVANIA, USA — Over 6,000 Pennsylvanians are currently hospitalized with COVID-19, and the strain on hospitals & health care workers continues to grow.

To help with the influx of patients, Wellspan Health in York, at the request of Governor Tom Wolf, received federal aid in the form a medical strike team.

This strike team is composed of twenty Air Force members including fourteen nurses, two respiratory care professionals and four physicians.

Wellspan Health CEO Roxanna Gapstur says these extra hands have been vital to their success in caring for patients.

“The team's already working alongside ours in providing much needed expert parents several specialties, including intensive care and medical Covid units in the emergency department," Gapstur said. "While they're based in York, the FEMA team gives us the capacity to shift other team members and resources across our health system and reduce the strain on some of our other hospitals and care teams.”

That flexibility, Gapstur noted, is increasingly important as capacity in their beds and ICU units shrinks.

One of the strike team physicians, Maj. Michelle Lee, said the on-the-ground work has been rewarding.

“Working as a hospitalist alongside the our civilian counterparts...we're taking care of both Covid and non-Covid patients in any way we can to support the stress on this hospital," Lee said.

"Everyone's been very appreciative here as well. So we're happy to be here, hopefully to help in this time of need."

Currently, the strike team members will stay in Pennsylvania for 30 days – but Lt. Col. Scott Jensen with the Dept. of Defense said a reassessment will happen in about a week. 

Gapstur and her team say nonetheless, they are grateful for the help.

"The variety of professionals that we've gotten...really helps that team be flexible and work in all different areas of the hospital. And that is something that is essentially needed when we have you know, call ups or other things with COVID that create changes in our operation - so flexible is helpful."

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