WENATCHEE — Confluence Health, the largest health care provider in North Central Washington, got a manpower boost last week from the U.S. Defense Department to support the center’s operations as it struggles with low staff counts.

A 20-person team of medical staff — four physicians, 14 nurses and two respiratory therapists — arrived on Oct. 22, according to a Confluence news release. Confluence applied for the resources in August through the state Department of Health.

It is one of 11 health care centers nationally to get Defense Department teams.

“Our own teams have been working above and beyond to mitigate the surging needs, and this additional support arrives after an exhausting 20-month battle with COVID-19 that continues to tax our staff and daily operations,” said Dr. Peter Rutherford, Confluence Health CEO, in the news release. “Nationally, we understand that the pandemic has put a strong demand on federal staffing resources, and support is scarce. We are grateful to have been selected as a recipient.”

The state’s vaccine mandate for private health care workers has impacted already reduced staff numbers. As of Oct. 7, Confluence Health had 23 resignations and approved 229 medical and religious exemptions. The only two accommodations provided, however, were either to work from home or take a 12-week leave of absence.

Some Confluence Health workers voiced their frustration over the accommodations at a protest on Oct. 19.

Two Defense Department teams were sent to Washington. The second team was dispatched to Providence Sacred Medical Center in Spokane. Three other teams were assigned to Louisiana, two in Mississippi, two in Alabama, one in Idaho and one in Tennessee.

“As we continue to respond to this pandemic, our service members are working tirelessly to provide the best support possible to hospitals and communities in need,” said Lt. Gen. John R. Evans Jr., U.S. Army North commander. “As defenders of our nation, they are deployed within the homeland to support our local, state and federal partners as we work together to defeat COVID-19.”

Forty-four patients at Central Washington Hospital were hospitalized due to COVID-19 as of Oct. 25, according to the Confluence Health COVID-19 webpage. Fourteen were in the intensive care unit.

Oscar Rodriguez: (509) 665-1179


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