Military medical team begins training to help ease hospital stress at HCMC

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(KSTP) -A military team made up of mostly Air Force doctors, nurses, respiratory therapists and support staff began training Tuesday afternoon at Hennepin County Medical Center in downtown Minneapolis.

The team of 23 military members will be stationed at the Minneapolis hospital, while a second team will assist with staffing at a St. Cloud hospital.

"It’s pretty unique in that we are doing it in the States," said Lt. Col. Brandon Shealey, U.S. Air Force.

But the team leader said however long they are in Minnesota, they will, "Do our job — which is to provide outstanding medical care."

It comes on a day when the state is seeing one of the highest totals of hospitalized COVID-19 patients this year, 1,429 statewide.

The military team underwent training from HCMC staff to learn about their practices and procedures Tuesday afternoon.

In the coming days, the military team will begin to see patients at the hospital.

The old urgent care wing will now be staffed by the military team with 10 beds to help with patient levels in the emergency room.

Other members will help in the intensive care unit by providing an intermediate level of specialized care, freeing up six beds, according to medical staff.

It was a little more than a week ago when Minnesota officials made the request for federal assistance.

"I’m pleased of how quickly that was able to happen, the interface with HCMC and that team, and that ability to relieve some of the pressure on this facility," Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz said.

The military medical teams are assigned for a 30-day deployment, which could be extended, state officials said.

Minnesota Department of Health data showed 26 available ICU beds open statewide. About 27% of occupied ICU beds have COVID-19 patients.