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Princeton Community Hospital at capacity, National Guard to assist

Princeton Community Hospital
Princeton Community Hospital(WVVA)
Published: Jan. 19, 2022 at 10:27 PM EST
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PRINCETON, W.Va. (WVVA) - Princeton Community Hospital is at capacity, and has been for months according to the hospital’s president.

“As we’ve moved through the pandemic, you know, we have peaks and valleys. So, you know, we’re currently at a peak. We are at capacity, our emergency room is full,” said Karen Bowling, Princeton Community Hospital’s President and CEO.

Bowling said the hospital has been at capacity for months already. As of Wednesday, more of its nurses are out with COVID than ever before.

“We’re managing the best we can under the circumstances,” said Bowling. “But I think this is, for the next few weeks as we see what happens with Omicron, there’s just going to continue to be challenges that we have to face every day.”

Shortages aren’t only directly affecting hospitals either. Bluefield Rescue Squad, which provides EMS service in Mercer County, has already seen the effect.

“We’re seeing a longer turnaround time to get back available because of the overcrowded emergency departments,” said Sean Cantrell, Bluefield Rescue Squad’s Chief of Operations. “We’ve seen a lot of longer-distance transports because of hospital availability.”

Hospital staff shortages are an issue statewide in West Virginia. As a result, Gov. Jim Justice directed the state’s National Guard to assist hospitals last week. They’re set to arrive in Princeton on Monday.

“At this point in time we have plenty of folks trained up to meet the requirements,” said Adjutant General Bill Crane. “I have about 180 other folks going to Camp Dawson, they’re already moving to get ahead of the weather.”

National Guard members will not work as doctors or nurses, according to Bowling. Instead they’ll relieve overworked healthcare workers who, in the absence of coworkers, have had to take on tasks like sanitizing rooms, doing laundry and other non-medical work.

“They’re very willing to do anything, that’s the great thing,” said Bowling. “They can’t do the medical work, they’re not a nurse, they’re not a provider. But they are hands on deck.”

Princeton Community Hospital is set to receive eight West Virginia National Guard members on Monday.

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