SCRANTON, LACKAWANNA COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) — A federal strike team is helping a hospital in Lackawanna County deal with a surge in COVID-19 patients in the area.

The additional care is being felt inside and outside of the hospital. Regional Hospital of Scranton is getting help dealing with the strain on different resources. A strike team is a group made up of military members with the same kinds of skills. In this case, trained health care professionals. The extra hands offers more flexibility in providing care.

The Department of Defense strike team has been on the job since last week. They are helping care for COVID-19 patients. The team includes two doctors, five nurses, and seven medical technicians. The hospital has also received EMS help providing the area with five staffed ambulances.

“They’re on the road 12 hours a day. They are taking discharges out of our hospitals to increase capacity as well as being utilized to move COVID-positive patients from one facility to another,” Regional Hospital of Scranton Chief Nursing Officer Todd Burda said.

The team was brought in after the governor requested help from FEMA. They were deployed for 30 days, which would take them into the first week of February, but it all depends on this COVID surge and how long it lasts.

As new COVID cases continue to rise in our region, one local hospital recently received some extra help to care for patients.

Eyewitness News first told you last month a federal strike team was deployed to the Regional Hospital of Scranton. We’ve been hearing a lot about hospitals locally and nationally at capacity with COVID patients. The Regional Hospital of Scranton needs staff support much more than beds.

A 15-person Federal Emergency Management Agency team reported for clinical duties last week at the Regional Hospital of Scranton.

“We’re here in support of FEMA and the state of Pennsylvania to help with this most recent COVID-19 omicron variant surge,” strike team doctor of osteopathic medicine Major Nam Nguyen said.

The strike team consists of physicians, nurses, and respiratory technicians, working with commonwealth health’s medical staff. Regional Hospital of Scranton’s greatest need during this latest surge of COVID-19 is staffing support, whether employees are out sick or hindered by weather.

“What it’s bringing is experienced care providers that are providing high levels of medical care in conjunction with our teams,” Burda said.

The strike team is working on an in-patient COVID unit. Last week, six to eight additional beds were up and running. The hospital’s goal is to add 12 beds this week, with 24 beds up and running no later than next week.

“Typically during orientation period, we were asking four patients per RN. Once they get comfortable, once they get comfortable with the system for safety purposes, they may go up to about six,” Major Nguyen said.

As of Monday, Regional Hospital had 36 COVID-19 patients. Nine were in the ICU. Seven of those were on ventilators. Burda says some of those patients have been from out of state.

“We have been accepting patients from New York predominantly recent times,” Burda said.

Commonwealth Health also reports seeing a trend of people coming from New York or New Jersey for COVID-19 tests, a trend Pennsylvania saw last spring when it came to the COVID-19 vaccine.