Use the military to organize a national medical system for the coronavirus pandemic

There was a very interesting op-ed in the New York Times recently.  It describes using an aeromedical evacuation system to transfer coronavirus patients to other cities around the United States.

There are hospitals sitting idle right now. There is talk of layoffs in some places. Elective surgeries and procedures have been canceled. People are not clogging up ERs with small complaints like they usually do.  So staffs sit idle.

It does not make sense to sit and watch New York City get out of control, while beds are available in other places.  This is already done in most states. Rural and small-town hospitals transfer complex patients to bigger cities.  Mental health patients are sometimes transferred  200 or 300 miles to another hospital due to a lack of beds.

The military has a fully operational aeromedical evacuation system. Planes sit idle on runways right now. Military evac crews would need little notification to start this. Crews are highly trained and experienced, especially after recent wars.

After the first Gulf War, the military realized they needed to vastly improve their critical care transport ability. They trained special crews and developed equipment that can transport any critical care patient anywhere.  Most of aerovac in the military lies in the reserves and guard.  The majority of crews are not deployed overseas because of the decreased amount of soldiers in the middle east. They sit ready to help.

I wonder why we are not using the military right now more than we are.  If anyone can manage a situation like this, it is them. In the first Gulf War, they deployed 500,000 soldiers to the Middle East in 4 months and had them ready to fight a war. They set up tent cities across the region to house personnel. The set up a medical system to treat and transport wounded soldiers. They are experts at logistics and organization.

They should be in charge of this. It is obvious to everyone the government is unable to handle this.  The military could be used to transport equipment, supplies, personnel.  They could organize care and equipment in hotspots. When the cases in that location go down, everything could be moved to the next location.  This is what Governor Cuomo has proposed.  Send ventilators and other equipment to places that need it instead of letting it sit idle in places that don’t need it.  It makes the most sense.

The military could be on the ground in a few days, ready to go. Let’s use what we have readily available to avoid thousands of deaths.

Susan Shannon is a retired nurse who blogs at madness: tales of a retired emergency room nurse.

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