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St Paul (KROC AM News) - Severe staffing shortages being reported at long-term and other health care facilities in Minnesota will soon be receiving a helping hand - from the National Guard.

Gov. Tim Walz Monday announced the activation of guard members “to serve as skilled-nursing rapid response teams to support healthcare facilities experiencing severe staffing shortages.”

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Walz also said he continues to address hospital capacity concerns amid growing pressure on the state’s health care system due to COVID-19. The governor is also proposing providing $50 million in federal funding to facilities to help with the hiring and retention of staff.

Walz says more than 22,000 elderly and vulnerable Minnesotans receive care at roughly 365 skilled-nursing facilities across the state. Staffing shortages in skilled-nursing facilities have made it difficult for many hospitals to find placements for hospital patients in long-term care settings, as well as for individuals who can no longer be cared for in their homes.

“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,” said Walz. “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.”

The National Guard says 400 members will train as certified nursing assistants and temporary nursing aides to support this activation. The Minnesota Department of Health and Minnesota National Guard medical staff will provide the training. Since mid-October, more than 70 service members have supported COVID-19 community-based testing at sites in Stillwater, Crookston, Hutchinson, Inver Grove Heights, Wadena, and Hibbing. Since the beginning of November, nearly 50 Guard members have supported transition care units at sites in Shakopee, Brainerd, and St. Paul.

Minnesota National Guard

Minnesota National Guard Adjutant General Shawn Manke released this statement after the governor’s announcement:

“Our force is highly adaptive and with training will assist Minnesota’s healthcare community in responding to healthcare staffing shortages. One of the Minnesota National Guard’s pillars is people as they are our most valuable resource. We acknowledge that we share this resource with employers, and we know these activations can disrupt their businesses and organizations. We appreciate the employers of our citizen-Soldiers and Airmen, as we could not conduct our federal, state, and community missions without their support. We thank our military families for their service, too, as we know they have to adjust their lives when activations occur."

MN National Guard

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