The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has deployed a Disaster Medical Assistance Team (DMAT) to help care for the surge of COVID-19 patients at North Mississippi Medical Center in Tupelo. DMAT is part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ National Disaster Medical System (NDMS), which helps communities respond to and recover from public health emergencies and disasters. The 33 team members include physicians, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, nurses, paramedics, respiratory therapists and pharmacists who will help relieve the pressure on NMMC’s staff. The team can treat up to 24 patients at a time in an inpatient unit or in NMMC’s Emergency Department, where there has recently been a backlog of admitted patients waiting on a hospital bed to become available. NMMC has both regular and ICU rooms available, but like many other hospitals does not have enough personnel to staff them. “The people we care for are our families, friends, neighbors and colleagues. Over the last week we have transparently shared we are very challenged to provide the highest level of care due to the number of patients and our resource capacity,” said Jeremy Blanchard, M.D., North Mississippi Health Services chief medical officer. “We welcome the DMAT to Tupelo and appreciate their support of our community.” “This is my 14th deployment to assist with COVID-19,” said Mark Thorpe, RN, EMT-P, DMAT team commander. “Our team has a tremendous amount of experience in treating COVID-19 patients and is happy to be here at NMMC. We thank hospital leadership and all the staff for the extremely warm welcome we received.” The help is temporary—the NDMS team is committed for two weeks in Tupelo. After 14 days, the state may submit a request for additional support, if needed. The Mississippi State Department of Health, in partnership with the Office of the Governor, the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency and NMMC, requested help from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The federal government is covering the cost. “We greatly appreciate the high level of attention and collaboration among federal and state officials and departments to lend support to us during this time of great need,” Shane Spees, CEO, North Mississippi Health Services. “Our staff are dedicated and will continue to do everything they can, but they can only do so much. They are stretched thin now,” David Wilson, NMMC-Tupelo president. “We need the community’s help. We are appreciative of the DMAT, but we really need to address the problem at the source and get our community to understand how decisions they make impact others. Vaccination is the only way we can dig our way out of this pandemic.” Unfortunately, Mississippi is experiencing a rise in COVID-19 cases, driven by transmission of the Delta variant predominately amongst the unvaccinated. Virtually all hospitalizations and deaths are among the unvaccinated. From July 1-Aug. 11, 92.4% of COVID-19 patients admitted to NMHS were unvaccinated. Today (Aug. 18), NMMC-Tupelo and other North Mississippi Health Services hospitals are treating 89 COVID-19 patients.
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