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Department of Defense team helps WellSpan on the frontlines during COVID-19 surge

January 06, 2022

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WellSpan Surgery and Rehabilitation Hospital Nurse Manager Kelly Shifflet (left) and Lt. Cassandra Dusseau, a clinical nurse on the Department of Defense Augmentation Team, review a patient’s medical chart.

WellSpan Surgery and Rehabilitation Hospital Nurse Manager Kelly Shifflet (left) and Lt. Cassandra Dusseau, a clinical nurse on the Department of Defense Augmentation Team, review a patient’s medical chart.

A clinical support team from the U.S. Department of Defense is now helping caregivers on the frontlines at WellSpan York Hospital. WellSpan, like many healthcare systems across the nation, is experiencing a surge of COVID-19 hospitalizations.

“In just this six-week period, our daily COVID-19 hospitalizations in all of our hospitals doubled from less than 250 patients to over 450 today,” said Dr. Tony Aquilina, executive vice president and chief physician executive, WellSpan Health. “Throughout the current surge WellSpan has provided record number of COVID-19 tests in our communities.”

On the first day of 2022, WellSpan Health cared for almost 500 hospitalized COVID-19 patients and managed nearly 19,000 suspect COVID-19 outpatient visits in clinics and urgent care centers, a record high for the WellSpan system since the start of the pandemic.

The 23-person support team is made up of physicians, nurses and respiratory care practitioners deployed to WellSpan through a request for support through Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

“We are incredibly grateful to have received additional clinical support from the US Department of Defense in response to Governor Wolf’s request for assistance from FEMA. The team is already working alongside ours and providing much needed expert care in several specialties including intensive care, medical COVID-19 units and the emergency department,” said Roxanna Gapstur Ph.D, R.N., president and CEO, WellSpan Health.

The team from the Department of Defense is expected to be helping for approximately 30 days.

Added Gapstur, “While the team is based in York, it gives us the capacity to shift other team members and resources across our health system and reduce the strain on some of our other hospitals and care teams.”