National Guard deployed to assist Portland hospitals

PORTLAND, Ore. (KPTV/CNN) – The Oregon National Guard is helping hospitals with the surge of COVID patients in Portland.

About 300 airmen and airwomen gathered over the weekend ready to help overwhelmed hospitals in the Portland metro area.

Monday more than 1,100 people were hospitalized with COVID across Oregon. Only 6 percent of ICU beds were available and 7 percent of non-ICU beds statewide.

Robert Pena serves as a surveillance technician with the 116Th Air Control Squadron. He said, “It feels good to see that I’m helping make a difference, versus just kind of feeling helpless and seeing my community around me not doing so great.”

116Th Air Control Squadron Surveillance Technician Robert Pena just finished helping with wildfires in the state when the next day he was called on for this mission. He said, “It’s a busy time to be in the guard. But it’s also the most helpful you’ll ever feel in the guard. Because you’re actually doing what you’re supposed to be doing. You know, like, what you’re here for.”

Providence hospitals will see their first deployments of guard members in the Portland area this week including 90 at Providence Portland and 90 at Providence St. Vincent. They’ll be doing non-clinical jobs, everything from helping at entrances to transporting patients to cleaning rooms. We’re told caregivers are grateful for that help.

Kaiser is expecting about 70 guard members to soon be working at its hospitals.

There are already many working at hospitals in Southern Oregon after the governor deployed about 500 members a week and a half ago.

Colonel David Unruh with the142nd Wing said, “It has been hard. We’re airmen. We’re soldiers. We come from the communities that we live in, we work in, we grow up in and our desire is to serve and protect those communities. This is a way we get to do it. I’m thankful.”

Governor Kate Brown deployed up to 1,500 Oregon National Guard members to hospitals earlier this month.

The soldiers are assisting with logistics, COVID testing and support for hospital operations.

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