Army to provide medical help for COVID-19 patients

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- Eighty-five soldiers are headed to Houston to help treat COVID-19 patients, and they will begin working at United Memorial Medical Center this week.

The soldiers are part of the Urban Augmentation Medical Task Force.

SEE RELATED STORY: Military medical reinforcements arrive to help fight COVID-19 surge

The task force will begin integrating into the hospital on Wednesday to get to know their system. UMMC hopes to have the new COVID-19 wing open by Thursday.

"It truly is an honor to be able to be asked for that help and then to be a part of giving that help," said Major Katie Bessler, the hospital administrator of the U.S Army Urban Augmentation Medical Task Force.

Major Bessler is leading the team as they come from 27 locations across the country to bring their unique skills.

"We have a plethora of different types of nurses, critical care, ER-trained, medical, surgical nurses, we have respiratory therapy techs, doctors," said Major Bessler.

There are six different medical task force groups that will go to areas of Texas. The first group is in San Antonio. Houston is where the second group is going.

Ahead of their arrival, army personnel from higher headquarters got a look around the new COVID wing at UMMC. It will add 30 to 55 beds.

The army's arrival comes as hospital staff feels the strain.

"The fact is we're exhausted. Today is 117 days of doing this non-stop," said Dr. Joseph Varon at UMMC.

Varon said beds haven't been the issue, it's been manpower, so this is a big relief. Still, it's about to get busier.

With the added beds, the SouthEast Texas Regional Advisory Council, or SETRAC, is likely to start sending more COVID patients to UMMC.

"They're coming in but we're also expecting to see a higher influx of patients to us. SETRAC is going to be sending us patients from other locations that need to be housed somewhere," said Varon.

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