Minnesota National Guard 'response teams' to support long-term care facilities | KSTP.com

Minnesota National Guard 'response teams' to support long-term care facilities

Josh Skluzacek
Updated: November 22, 2021 06:56 PM
Created: November 22, 2021 10:19 AM

Gov. Tim Walz said Monday that he's activating the Minnesota National Guard to form skilled nursing "response teams" to support long-term care facilities dealing with staffing shortages.

The move comes as the state continues to have hospital capacity concerns due to a surge in COVID-19 and just a week after the governor's office announced Minnesota would receive two emergency federal medical teams to help treat patients.

A total of 400 Guard members will start training as certified nursing assistants and temporary nursing aides over the next week, according to the governor's office. Skilled-nursing facilities facing severe staffing shortages can request help from the Minnesota Department of Health, and facilities that are selected will get a Guard team to provide on-site staffing support for up to three weeks at a time.

MDH will work closely with the Guard to direct where the response teams should be deployed. More than 70 Guard members have helped with community COVID-19 testing in Stillwater, Crookston, Hutchinson, Inver Grove Heights, Wadena and Hibbing since mid-October. Since the start of November, around 50 more Guard members have assisted at the state's three alternate care sites in Shakopee, Brainerd and St. Paul.

In addition to treating more than 22,000 Minnesotans, long-term care facilities also are providing post-acute care and rehabilitation therapy to patients who don't need hospital treatment. However, staffing shortages are making it tough for many hospitals to find placements for hospital patients in long-term care settings, according to Walz's office.

"Our long-term care facilities are facing an all-hands-on-deck moment, and that's why we are taking unprecedented action to support skilled nursing workers, residents, and patients," Walz said in a statement. "Financial support will help our skilled nursing facilities hire and retain talented staff to care for patients, and the Minnesota National Guard is preparing to fill any staffing gaps. I am deeply thankful to the skilled nursing personnel who work so hard to care for so many Minnesotans every day. I pledge to do whatever it takes to help Minnesota's long-term care community get through this challenging time."

"One of the Minnesota National Guard's pillars is people, as they are our most valuable resource," Major General Shawn Manke, the Minnesota National Guard's adjutant general, said in a statement. "Our force is highly adaptive and with training will assist Minnesota's health care community in responding to health care staffing shortages. We appreciate the employers of our citizen-Soldiers and Airmen, as we know these activations can disrupt their businesses and organizations. We ask that you continue to support the Guard members you employ as we all work to get through this challenging time. We thank our military families for their service, too, as we know they have to adjust their lives when activations occur."

Walz also proposed providing $50 million in federal American Rescue Plan funding to facilities to help with hiring and staff retention. The Legislative COVID-19 Response Commission is reviewing the request, with grants possibly being distributed in December. Walz's office said 90% of the grant funding would have to be used for workforce retention and hiring.

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