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Navy provides ‘cavalry’ support to St. Louis County hospital

Navy medical staff pose with hospital staff at BJC Christian in north St. Louis County. The military members will be helping staff the hospital for 30 days.
BJC HealthCare
Navy medical staff pose with hospital employees at BJC Christian in St. Louis County. The military members will be helping staff the hospital for 30 days.

Forty doctors and nurses from the Navy are seeing patients at BJC Christian Hospital in St. Louis County, providing relief and added capacity to the taxed health care system in the region.

The detachment from California and Washington state includes six doctors, two physician assistants, three respiratory therapy technicians and 30 nurses. They are tending to all kinds of patients, not just those with COVID who are straining area hospitals.

“The tenor of the morning they came was that the cavalry had arrived,” Dr. Clay Dunnagan, co-director of the St. Louis Metropolitan Pandemic Task Force, said Wednesday during a press briefing. “It's a wonderful group of clinicians, they're young and energetic and were clearly ready for the challenge.”

This is the second mission for the group that comes from six Navy medical facilities on the West Coast.

Lt. Cmdr. Josh Corbridge said he has already seen a positive impact after just two days at the hospital.

“Anytime you can come in and try to provide a little bit of relief, it’s helpful. And I can't say enough good things about the hospital staff. It's a partnership, and I think that's been the most rewarding thing thus far,” Corbridge said.

While the military medical staff members find the work rewarding, they are also aware of the challenges.

“One thing that a lot of the patients here have are comorbidities. So not only are they COVID patients, but they have other health issues. And so that makes it a little bit more complex than, you know, if you're relatively healthy and get COVID,” Corbridge said.

The extra help from the Navy will be at BJC Christian for a month. They will first give a break to health care workers who haven’t had a day off in weeks, and then will look to add capacity at the hospital during the current surge.

The latest numbers show St. Louis-area COVID hospital admissions down from a peak two weeks ago but still higher than during the surge in November. Area hospitals are still admitting more than 125 COVID patients every day, and 60% of those are unvaccinated.

But with the numbers of the current surge declining, Dunnagan is optimistic.

“We expect to have some period, I don't know how long it will last, where we may not have to be so attentive to COVID,” he said.

Follow Jonathan on Twitter: @JonathanAhl

Jonathan Ahl is the Newscast Editor and Rolla correspondent at St. Louis Public Radio.