By Capt. David Boyles
Forty Soldiers and Airmen from the Pennsylvania National Guard, in cooperation with state agencies, recently began a support mission the Brighton Rehab and Wellness Center.
The contingent initially consisted of a 12-member medical support team, consisting of service members who are trained medical specialists, and 15 service members who were at the facility to assist in cleaning and related tasks.
Pennsylvania Task Force West later added 12 more Soldiers to assist inside the facility and one non-commissioned officer to assist outside of the facility with administrative matters.
The Guard members answered the call within 24 hours and began in-processing and being fitted for personal protective equipment at a nearby location on May 11.
“We continue to stay informed on the situation at the Brighton Rehabilitation and Wellness Center to ensure we are providing all the necessary support, appropriate supplies, and equipment required to assist the resident care and facility management," said Lt. Col. Gary Zembower, PTF West commander. "We are responding to the effort with an additional 12 Soldiers to better serve the needs of the facility as they continue working toward focused resident care in a timely, cooperative effort.”
Many of the members of the medical support team also work in the medical field in civilian occupations beyond the National Guard’s duty assignment.
For example, Lt. Col. Albert Fogle, the 2nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team’s brigade surgeon, the highest medical advisor to the brigade commander, is a board certified doctor in family medicine and fellowship trained and board certified in Geriatrics.
PTF West’s leadership has had ongoing communication with the on-ground teams at Brighton. Both Zembower and Fogle continue to coordinate with the Medical Support Team and the care center as the task force continues to address the needs of the facility’s residents.
“The initiation of service members from the Pennsylvania National Guard assisting the facility has been a positive one," Fogle said after meetings with the management and doctors working at Brighton. "The cooperation of the staff and administration has been very open and welcoming. Within 24 hours, our Pennsylvania National Guardsmen were able to respond and were integrated into the care center to assist with the residents' needs. Our service members are highly qualified and dedicated to assisting the residents needs to continue the ongoing cooperative effort against COVID-19.”
The team will provide cooperative support to Brighton to allow the nurses and staff to focus on the patients living in the home. The medical support team will work in three shifts with extra personnel assisting during the daytime shift as directed by Eva Hamilton, the facility’s director of nursing.
The medical support team’s officer in charge, 1st Lt. Kara Moyer is working cooperatively with Brighton leadership and staffs to coordinate the efforts in the care center as the service members serve the needs of the facility and residents.
“It has been difficult in the early stages of coordination and orientation, but we are very happy to help and provide care for the residents of Brighton Rehab and Wellness Center," Moyer said. "Whether it is taking out the trash, cleaning, feeding, or getting the patients ice, we are proud of our efforts in serving our community members.”
In addition to the main team, an 11-member Civil Support Team from Fort Indiantown Gap is augmenting the Pa. National Guard’s presence at Brighton. The CST’s focus is sanitizing the facility and training the staff on proper sanitizing procedures. This team also began this Monday, May 11, by aiding, training, and assisting the Brighton’s efforts to sterilize the facility.
The CST met with Ed Mejia the director of environmental services at Brighton on Tuesday. Training of the staff from Health Care Services Inc., a contracted cleaning service, began immediately.
“We are extremely happy to have the National Guard’s assistance, and welcome the extra help,” Mejia said.
The Civil Support Team is a full time unit that is a highly trained group with skills that include cleaning hazardous biological, chemical, and virus-contaminated environments.
It is not known at this time how long the mission at Brighton will last.
In a letter addressing the service members, 2nd IBCT commander Lt. Col. Richard Tylicki said: “those Soldiers called out on Active Duty for the commonwealth’s response to the outbreak, I thank you for putting yourself in harm’s way to support civilian authorities as we work to beat this invisible and new enemy.”