New Hampshire Guardsmen set up additional care site at UNH

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Aaron Vezeau
  • 157th Air Refueling Wing

A team of New Hampshire National Guardsmen established a 250-bed hospital overflow site at the University of New Hampshire’s Hamel Recreation Center in support of the state’s on-going COVID-19 response efforts, March 25-26.

The temporary facility will house patients who are discharged from the hospital, but cannot return home right away.

According to Maj. Michelle Mastrobattista, 157th Medical Group administrative officer, the surge facility will take the strain off other medical facilities by accepting those patients who are not exhibiting life threatening conditions. Patients may end up at the surge facility for a number of reasons, she added.

“It could be their nursing home won’t let them back in because they have not fulfilled their 14-day quarantine period, or they have a family member at home who is still under quarantine and they don’t want to get infected,” she said. “Or it could be a more social-economic issue where someone doesn’t have a place to go.”

The effort was a joint operation between the Air and Army National Guard. Guardsmen also worked closely with health experts from four regional hospitals and UNH to develop the scope and framework of the support operations.

“At some point, based on what happens with COVID-19, they need to stand up these alternate surge sites.” said Col. Erik Fessenden, 197th Field Artillery Brigade commander and director of military support. “The lights will go on and the Guard will help the hospitals and local community to run these locations.”

The plan is for the facility to have a medical doctor on-call, as well as two case managers and a social worker on site every day.

The intent is for patients who use the facility to be released back to their home or nursing facility within three days.

In addition to the Durham site, state Guardsmen have set up additional surge sites in Nashua, Manchester and Plymouth.

“Hopefully through this, we can relieve pressure from the hospitals for those more acute patients that require ventilators, especially as it relates to COVID-19.” Mastrobattista said. “That’s really what this place is going to be for. That is the need of the community.”