16 medical professionals from The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services National Disaster Medical System (NDMS) standing in front of Atrium Health Pineville

News | 3 months ago

‘We’re Here Simply To Help Bridge The Gap’

Federal Healthcare Team augments emergency department at Atrium Health Pineville.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has deployed 16 medical professionals from its National Disaster Medical System (NDMS) to provide short-term surge support for our teammates at Atrium Health Pineville.

During its two-week deployment, the NDMS team – which includes a physician, nurse practitioners, emergency medical technicians and support personnel from the Colorado-based Disaster Medical Assistance Team – will work 12-hour shifts in the emergency department at Atrium Health Pineville. This highly adaptable team is trained to fill a variety of impactful roles, from performing medical triage and emergency care to supporting infusion centers and vaccine sites to decompressing hospital emergency rooms to supporting patient movement and more.

Medical professionals fitted with KN95 face masks

“We’re meant to augment the staffing that is in place,” says Marc Scherschel, team commander for DMAT. “We’re here simply to help bridge the gap during this current surge and provide care for those patients for a short period time as we move into the future.”

On Jan. 21, as the omicron variant of COVID-19 continued to push the number of positive cases up and strain our health system, Atrium Health joined the state of North Carolina in asking the federal government for additional staffing support to help alleviate some of these constraints.

In response to that request and in coordination with the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the DMAT members arrived Feb. 2 and began to provide care for patients in the hospital’s emergency department Feb. 3. Their deployment is currently scheduled to end Feb. 13.

Medical professionals treating patient

“We’re extremely grateful for the support of our state and federal governments, specifically Gov. Roy Cooper, the NCDHHS and HHS, to share this team of medical professionals for our Atrium Health Pineville emergency department,” says James Hunter, MD, senior vice president and chief medical officer for Atrium Health. “Our dedicated health care heroes at Atrium Health have worked very hard throughout the pandemic and, like many others across the country, are feeling the effects of this latest surge. Knowing their work is being recognized and supplemented by this team to lend a hand is very meaningful for them.”

When not on deployment, these healthcare providers have full-time “day jobs” working as first responders and medical professionals in roles such as firefighter, paramedic, emergency room nurse, emergency manager, surgeon, nurse practitioner, director of nursing at a critical care hospital, clinical informatics and clinical intelligence – and even cybersecurity. They serve as intermittent federal employees when called into service.

The team members are on-call about three months out of the year, typically responding to hurricanes, earthquakes and other disaster situations where emergency medical assistance is needed. Many have deployed at least four times during the COVID-19 pandemic, and one has deployed 20 times.

Like many healthcare personnel, they have supported vaccination efforts, established quarantine protocols and provided hands-on care for COVID-19 patients for more than two years.

“Even though you're exhausted, when I deploy, this is a cup-filling instead of cup-draining time,” says Scherschel, who ran a mass vaccination event at Coors Field, in Denver, last year in his capacity as the senior director of pre-hospital care at UCHealth. “It's nice to come somewhere else and be helpful. Emotionally, it's an uplift, even if I'm physically tired.”

Atrium Health continues to explore every possible option to provide relief for our teammates as the COVID-19 pandemic approaches its third year, including redeploying non-clinical teammates to help with some non-clinical tasks across the hospitals.

“We know that the strain on our health system exists far beyond just the walls of Atrium Health Pineville, so we’re very thankful for the support, not only from our state but from the federal government, as well, to support our teammates,” says Sheela Myers, MD, chief medical officer at Atrium Health Pineville. “We’ll continue to pull all levers that we have throughout the course of the pandemic to keep the team going and serve the community.”