With COVID-19 cases and hospital admissions at record levels, members of the Wisconsin National Guard have begun working in nursing homes to care for residents and free up beds in congested hospitals, officials said Thursday.
Through a partnership with Madison Area Technical College, security guards receive accelerated training to become certified nursing assistants. About 50 security guards began working in six nursing homes this week, with another 80 set to join by the end of the month and another 80 in February, Governor Tony Evers said.
Due to the influx, nursing homes should be able to open 200 extra beds for residents by the end of February, Evers said. That will help hospitals, where administrators have said they can’t fire some patients who are ready to leave because nursing homes don’t have enough staff to accept them.
The aid is in addition to the state partnering with employment agencies to recruit 626 nurses, nursing assistants and other types of health workers to support 76 hospitals, nursing homes and assisted living facilities. In addition, a 20-strong US Navy team began operations at Green Bay’s Bellin Hospital last month, and Evers said he expects more teams from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
“As we continue to see COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations increase, we are following every available option to provide needed staff support to Wisconsin’s health systems,” Evers said.