Members of the U.S. Navy are helping at overwhelmed Utah hospital

Mar 2, 2022, 6:16 PM

Dr. Kencee Graves talks with members of the U.S. Navy as they arrive to support the University of U...

Dr. Kencee Graves talks with members of the U.S. Navy as they arrive to support the University of Utah Hospital in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, March 2, 2022. (Kristin Murphy/Deseret News)

(Kristin Murphy/Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY — Members of the U.S. Navy are now at the University of Utah Hospital to help with over 500 surgeries deferred because of COVID-19 hospitalizations.

Dr. Michael Good, the CEO of University of Utah Health, said they think the reinforcements will help open up hospitals beds that have been closed because they haven’t had enough staff to serve them.

U.S. Navy to send help

“Certainly, during the pandemic, time critical surgery has been completed,” said Good. “Maybe somebody needs back surgery because of injuries to their or chronic conditions to their back. When the hospital had so many COVID patients, and because of the staffing shortages, were some of the things that we’ve had to defer. So, now with the arrival of our colleagues from the Department of Defense, we’re really going to focus on getting as many of those surgeries completed while they’re here for their month-long deployment.”

For the next 30 days, physicians, nurses, and others will help schedule these delayed procedures, and work to get them done. 

A lot of the Navy team is respiratory therapists. Good says this will be really helpful. 

“Our teams have done phenomenal work during the two years of the pandemic. But now, as we enter this recovery phase, we need help getting caught up,” he said. “In fact, this operation is called Clinical Recovery Augmentation. We’re certainly not back to normal, but we’re trying to shift and get headed in that direction. And our colleagues from the Navy help us kind of accelerate that pivot that transition.”

A first of its kind 

Good says this partnership with the Navy is the first of its kind for the state.

“We can’t find in our archives, this type of deployment in our hospital, certainly in the recent past, and as best we can tell, this is the first time this has happened.”

More than 25 members of the Navy join the 14,000-plus team members at University of Utah hospitals and clinics. Good says it seems like a drop in the water, but it makes a big difference when their vacancies are double what they normally are.

“It’s common for us to as people come and go to have several 100 vacant positions,” said Good. “We have about twice our normal number of vacant positions right now. ”

And despite all that, Good says the help from the Navy will make a good dent in the 500-plus surgeries left. 

“I don’t know if we’ll get everything done in a deployment during the time of the deployment,” he said. “But we think we can get a really good start into catching up with those deferred surgeries.”

KSL TV’s Sean Moody contributed to the reporting of this story.

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Members of the U.S. Navy are helping at overwhelmed Utah hospital