Volunteer group of UT Austin students, faculty and graduates ready to fill medical staffing shortages

AUSTIN (KXAN) – Nearly 500 University of Texas students, faculties, graduates, and other medical professionals who have volunteered stand ready to address central Texas staffing shortages caused by rising hospital admissions.

The University of Texas Medical Reserve Corps agreed to fill the newly activated alternative care facility at the Austin Convention Center or deploy it to local hospitals to help.

“We have a lot of volunteers who can practice within their framework,” said Dr. Li-Chen Lin, who serves on the UTMRC command team and a faculty member at the School of Nursing. “Suppose a hospital system wants to make a request to add UTMRC to its team. Then they can do that and we are deployed. ”

Founded after September 11, 2001 as part of UT Austin’s School of Nursing, the group trains on natural disasters and public health emergencies. They have been used in everything from floods and hurricanes to flu prevention clinics.

Currently, UTMRC volunteers assist with the distribution of vaccines. Kathryn Hanley, another member of the commando, said the vaccination clinics had allowed other medical professionals to hear from their group.

“I actually had contact with a vet today because he came to swim. I mean, we really like each other. We even have someone who is an embalming man come in and was some kind of floater directing traffic. So it really is everyone who is ready to help, ”she said.

Hanley himself is studying to be a nurse at UT Austin’s School of Nursing.

They recruited members during the pandemic – the group has grown from around 140 volunteers to nearly 500.

Many of these health care workers and students volunteer at vaccination clinics – or other UTMRC outreaches – on their days off.

“It is a challenge. It is much work. It’s exhausting, but at the same time you see people standing up and helping each other, ”said Lin. “We will continue to support the community wherever the need is.”

She said they worked with the city of Austin back in March to discuss the potential for opening alternative care facilities to accept overflow patients from hospitals as the virus began to spread. She noted at the time that her pharmacists and other volunteers had consulted with city health officials about setting up a field hospital. She said they had an agreement with the city and county to occupy the alternative care facility at the convention center if necessary.

“If we have to, we’re ready to roll with it,” she said.

“There are just no beds ready”: Doctors in Austin describe the influx of COVID-19 patients and prepare for an alternative treatment site

The website was first launched in the summer during the region’s first major COVID-19 surge, but has not yet enrolled any patients. The state cleared Austin-Travis County’s request to activate the site on Saturday.

An Austin city spokesman said they hope to have this site operational within 14 days, but said “it depends on staff, resources and the needs of local hospitals in the area”. They said the number of staff needed would depend on the number of patients admitted or brought to the site.

They found that the state would meet most of the staffing needs at the site – which means groups like UTMRC may not be used.

Health experts fear a staff shortage in intensive care units in the Austin area as COVID-19 cases rise

A spokesman for the Texas Division of Emergency Management said they are working with vendors across the state to provide staff and other services required to open the site. He said they are likely to move workers from other parts of the state and country.

“The state is working with Austin-Travis County to find out what their needs are in order to provide the full-service services required to operate the Alternate Care Site,” the spokesman emphasized the importance of other services such as groceries and services Equipment .

The TDEM spokesman said they have set up similar alternate foster homes in about 14 days in the past so the schedule hasn’t been inappropriately. However, they did not have a date that the website would enroll patients.

IN-DEPTH: Medical staff deployed nationwide

The Department of State Health Services said there are currently 10,715 contracted medical workers across the state and 471 serving in health facilities in the central Texas area that require additional staff to care for COVID-19 patients.

The state said these medical personnel deployments were not specifically tied to the 15% hospital capacity threshold set in Governor Greg Abbott’s emergency orders.

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