For full recovery, remove medics from the pandemic sideline
Last year on March 27, just weeks after the U.S. outbreak of COVID-19, the Navy ship USNS Mercy arrived at the port of Los Angeles with 800 medical personnel on board. Three thousand kilometers away, the USNS Comfort – the other of two dedicated medical vessels in the Navy fleet – reached the shores of New York. Their common mission: to serve as a “relief valve” for hospitals in Los Angeles and the New York area at the start of the pandemic. Over the next six weeks, the two ships equipped with medics, nurses and hundreds of hospitals (naval medics) treated patients to ease the burden on civilian medical personnel focused on COVID patients.
Ironically, if most of those hundreds of soldiers had disembarked and ditched their uniforms, they would not be allowed to serve patients in need – even in the dire emergency of a pandemic. These are highly qualified individuals each with a minimum of $ 100,000 in taxpayer funded medical training and unparalleled experience in crisis situations. And, in fact, when their military service is over, many who want to continue their medical work find it difficult to do so. Half of Former doctors and hospital staff who wish to continue working in the medical field are unable to find employment in the health care industry in the United States. And more broadly, 60% of veterans describe themselves as underemployed, according to the The Veterans Measures Initiative.
Knowledgeable military medical experts who can treat a seriously injured Marine in Afghanistan, prescribe medicine for a sick soldier in the field, or treat a sick ex-tribal in Kenya often have to restart their training in the civilian world.
The United States’ response to COVID-19 has been marked by tragic and fatal shortages, including the lack of medical staff in clinics and hospitals. Last fall, for weeks and weeks as the virus increased, hospitals at least 25 reported conditions staff shortage. We remember the heartbreaking images of patients lined up in crowded hallways and the alarming news of patients being transferred hundreds of miles away for available beds and ambulances diverted from the nearest hospital. Thousands of former doctors also stayed there and witnessed the ramifications of these shortages. They were, and remain, eager to help, but are prevented from doing so by bureaucracy in the form of irregular accreditation at the state level. The bureaucratic barriers that prevent qualified applicants from filling the gaps in our overtaxed healthcare system can and should be overcome.
As the nation begins its painstaking recovery from this pandemic and lays the groundwork for preparing for the next event, one thing is clear: Skilled veterans can no longer be sidelined; they must be at the center of the solution. In an era when governors urged older (and vulnerable) medical workers out of retirement, How useful would it have been to have well-trained veterans instead? They could have worked in overrun hospitals or set up one of the thousands of vaccination clinics or COVID-19 testing sites that are central to how every community across the country is responding to the pandemic.
Every unemployed veteran represents an incredible lost opportunity for our country – an opportunity that can and must. be remedied as we learn lessons from this pandemic and move forward on our recovery. Our message to leaders as we close Military Appreciation Month: The best way to thank a veteran is to cut the red tape so they can do what they do best – help us all get back on track. foot.
Captain Dan Goldenberg, USN (retired) is the Call of Duty Staffingexecutive director and vice-president of Activision Blizzard. The endowment has funded the placement of more than 85,000 veterans in high quality jobs. Follow him on Twitter: @ Dan4Vets