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Adventist Health Hanford celebrates, thanks DoD team
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Adventist Health Hanford celebrates, thanks DoD team

HANFORD — As a large surge of COVID-19 patients came into Adventist Health Hanford in July, the hospital’s team of nurses, respiratory therapists and physicians grew weary, some exhausted as they worked long hours and picked up extra shifts to meet the demands of the surge. Just as they reached the highest number of COVID-19 patients, a clinical team from the Department of Defense arrived.

“You saved us,” Laurie Taggart, patient care executive of Adventist Health in the Central Valley, said during a celebration of the team held Friday.

The California Emergency Medical Services Authority and Kings County Department of Public Health Emergency Preparedness staffs requested, and were approved, to receive assistance from the Department of Defense in the form of a strike team. The team arrived on July 22 and its last day was Friday.

“We’ve been really blessed,” Taggart said. “I couldn’t believe it happened.”

The 20-member team of physicians, nurses, respiratory specialists, technicians and liaisons worked alongside the hospital’s clinical team in the emergency department, on medical and surgical units and in the ICU.

Taggart said the team came at a critical time when their help was desperately needed and was a huge support to the nursing and physician staff, as well as the patients and the community.

“The DoD team boosted the moral of our frontline caregivers and helped us provide much needed care to our critically ill patients,” she said.

Dr. Mina Raju, director of infectious diseases at the hospital, became emotional when thanking the team. She described the unknowns the hospital staff had to deal with in terms of this new disease, and said the team exceeded all her expectations

“These heroes provide superb care for the most vulnerable communities, the vulnerable members of our community, and this will never be forgotten,” Raju said.

Lt. Col. Derrick Whiteside, a physician with the team, said the team was welcomed with open arms and was able to get to work right away.

Whiteside said the team is used to being deployed to locations that are combat zones, so the experience was something different for them.

He said many people were surprised and very appreciative when they learned that they were being helped by active duty members of the military.

“This is not something that we do on the regular, so it’s a blessing and an honor to be able to come out here and do this,” Whiteside said.

Fortunately, Taggart said COVID-19 numbers at the hospital are starting to drop and it has been able to build up its own team in case of another surge. She thanked the team and said Adventist Health Hanford was very grateful for them all.

“The support of the DoD is something we will never forget,” she said.

The reporter can be reached at julissazavala@hanfordsentinel.com

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