Northam issues call for additional volunteers to meet COVID-19 health care demand

As Henry County held steady Wednesday with eight confirmed cases of COVID-19, Gov. Ralph Northam announced additional details about a statewide effort to recruit medical and non-medical volunteers in the fight against the illness.

Northam estimated up to 30,000 volunteers are needed to provide support for the expected surge in hospitals and long-term care facilities throughout Virginia.

Northams office, in collaboration with the Virginia Department of Health’s Virginia Medical Reserve Corps (MRC), is working with colleges and universities to reach out to students, especially those enrolled in health and medical degree programs. The administration is also reaching out to individuals who have recently filed for unemployment benefits and have relevant experience, and is coordinating with hospitals, health systems, and professional associations to help recruit their community members.

“As a doctor and a veteran, I know how vital it is to have the necessary personnel on the front lines,” said Northam. “The success of our COVID-19 crisis response depends on our ability to mobilize a dedicated healthcare workforce, and we are counting on Virginians to lend a hand and help us battle this virus. This is an opportunity to do good for our Commonwealth and save lives.”

The MRC is a force of dedicated volunteers who stand ready to support the community in the event of a public health emergency. Local units are comprised of teams of medical and public health professionals who, along with community members, volunteer their time, skills, and expertise to support ongoing public health initiatives and assist during emergencies.

“Whether you have a background in health care or just want to serve your community, Virginia needs you,” said Chief Workforce Advisor Dr. Megan Healy. “All Virginians are welcome in the fight against COVID-19, and we will need a wide range of talents to enhance the Commonwealth’s medical surge capacity during this time of crisis.” 

“We have all been inspired by the generosity of so many individuals in Virginia since COVID-19 began impacting the Commonwealth,” said Secretary of Health and Human Resources Daniel Carey, M.D. “We need all hands on deck as we expand our health system capacity in the weeks ahead. Now more than ever, joining the MRC is a great way to take action and give back to your community in a meaningful way.”

About 14,700 have people signed up with the MRC, nearly a third of them in the past couple of weeks, and about half of the volunteers have professional medical experience. Training at higher education institutions is available for Virginians who want to learn basic medical skills to volunteer, upskill current health professionals to transmission intensive care or medical-surgical units, and short courses on ventilators usage. 

Nurses, nurse practitioners, and nursing students are particularly encouraged to apply. Non-medical volunteer positions that are needed include logistics, communication, coordination, technology and other support.

“Tens of thousands of caring and committed healthcare professionals are working on the frontlines in Virginia hospitals to help patients who have contracted serious cases of COVID-19,” said Sean T. Connaughton, President and CEO of the Virginia Hospital and Healthcare Association. “At a time when the healthcare delivery system is working to maximize treatment capacity to meet the steadily-rising number of patients, there is a critical need for volunteers to join the Virginia Medical Reserve Corps to supplement the efforts of active healthcare providers.”

Also, as of Wednesday, according to information from the Virginia Department of Health, 44,169 people had been tested for COVID-19; 6,500 cases were confirmed; 1,048 people had been hospitalized and 195 had died from the virus.

For more information or sign up to become an MRC volunteer, visit vamrc.org. For more information on the state’s response to COVID-19, visit virginia.gov/coronavirus

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