KLAMATH FALLS, Ore. — Some of the 155 airmen from the 173rd Fighter Wing based at Kingsley Field will be recalled to serve a hospital system closer to home, base leadership said on Thursday.
An initial group of 50 airmen were activated last week to help hospitals in the Springfield-Eugene area with logistical support as healthcare staff deal with the surge in serious COVID-19 cases. The 173rd announced on Wednesday that 100 more would be deployed to the Salem area.
Now 23 of those airmen will instead be heading to Sky Lakes Medical Center in Klamath Falls, beginning Friday.
“It is a privilege to assist Oregon hospitals in a time of need,” said Col. Micah Lambert, 173rd Fighter Wing vice commander. “This hits close to home and is such an honor to support our community partner, Sky Lakes Medical Center, which provides medical care to much of Team Kingsley.”
As hospitals in Josephine and Jackson counties became overwhelmed by COVID-19 patients in early and mid-August, Sky Lakes did not report seeing the same surge. But later that month, hospital administrators began sounding the alarm after cases mounted practically overnight, as they were forced to open a second COVID-19 isolation unit and began looking at the need to postpone procedures.
Governor Kate Brown announced on August 13 that she would activate up to 1,500 members of the Oregon National Guard to help hospitals with logistical support due to the surge in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, combined with ongoing staffing shortages.
Like the first group, the newly activated airmen will be put to work in non-clinical roles; material handling, equipment support, COVID testing support, laundry and custodial services, and other tasks as needed.