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In several press releases it was announced that Idaho National Guard personnel are training to assist in COVID-19 efforts at Saint Alphonsus COVID-19 testing clinics and at multiple Primary Health Medical Group clinics among others, offering COVID-19 screening and testing services as Idaho faces a third wave of coronavirus infection.

The Saint Al locations include Saint Alphonsus’ Meridian Health Plaza and 12th Ave. in Nampa. Idaho Governor Brad Little announced Nov. 13 the activation of 100 Guardsmen to assist healthcare providers in the state.

The Governor’s order enables Air and Army National Guard soldiers to be deployed for 30 days. Both Primary Health and Saint Alphonsus are utilizing the troops to help address staffing shortages caused by the growing number of COVID-19 cases in the community.

At Primary Health, National Guard members have stepped into triage-type roles, which allows staff to focus on the more technical aspects of patient care. They will be on hand seven days a week.

“On a daily basis, many of our staff are unable to work due to illness or exposure to COVID-19 through community spread. This puts us at risk of having to turn patients away or delay care,” explained Dr. David Peterman, Primary Health CEO. “This is a critical time for our community and it is essential we test as many people as possible for coronavirus in order to understand how and where it is spreading. We are incredibly grateful to the National Guard for helping us keep our clinics running smoothly, so we can safely take care of our patients.”

Peterman added, “Primary Health has many employees who have served in the military and are currently members of the Guard. We are very proud of their service and would also like to thank the Governor for his support and declaring a state emergency. Please, everyone, have a safe Thanksgiving, stay close to home and wear your mask.”

Dr. Mark Nassir, president of the Saint Alphonsus Medical Group, also conveyed thanks for the help. “Due to the increased incidence of COVID-19 and community need for testing and evaluation, we have prioritized our clinical staffing at our Saint Alphonsus COVID testing sites, resulting in temporary suspension of services at other urgent care clinics,” he said. “The assistance provided by the Idaho National Guard medical personnel brings incredible lift to our mission. We express gratitude and thanks on behalf of the hard-working, dedicated healthcare professionals serving on the front lines of this pandemic battle, as they care for all patients across our Idaho communities.”

The Guard personnel will assist at Saint Al’s with both clinical and non-clinical tasks, including traffic control, patient registration and collecting samples for analysis by the on-site lab.

“The Idaho National Guard is proud to support our front-line healthcare workers and greatly appreciate the warm welcome our Airmen and Soldiers have received from the professional staff at Saint Alphonsus,” said Brig. Gen. Russ Johnson. “The training our Service Members are receiving today is essential to enable us to contribute to this extraordinary capability of our healthcare networks. … “Although this crisis is unlike past emergencies like floods and fires, our mission to help the citizens of Idaho remains a top priority.”

Guard officials stress that the personnel assigned to assist are not themselves working in front-line medical civilian jobs, so their deployment to assist Saint Alphonsus, Primary Health and other healthcare providers in the state does not jeopardize medical care at other facilities.

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