LRH Physician Returns Home after Providing Medical Support to the Navajo Nation Amidst COVID-19 Pandemic

May 25, 2020

An emergency department physician from Littleton Regional Healthcare, Dr. David Hirsch, has returned home from Chinle, Arizona, after providing medical support for individuals of the Navajo Nation who tested positive for COVID-19.

Dr. Hirsch serves as a member of the National Disaster Medical System's (NDMS) Disaster Medical Assistance Team. NDMS is among the resources made available by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' (HHS) Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR).

Due to high COVID-19 infection rates among the Navajo Nation population, HHS deployed a team of medical professionals and logistical personnel from NDMS to support patient care at two temporary, field style medical care facilities: one facility is located in Chinle, AZ and a second site is located in Shiprock, NM.

Dr. Hirsch and his NDMS colleagues worked in collaboration with medical personnel from the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps, the Veterans Administration and local health providers to provide public health and medical services at the temporary alternate care facility in Chinle. The Chinle and Shiprock facilities can each care up to 90 COVID-19 positive patients from the Navajo Nation. They are fully equipped overflow medical facilities to help meet anticipated needs resulting from the COVID-19 virus.

"The treatment and isolation of COVID-19 positive patients is designed to relief the pressure on local hospitals," said Dr. Helga Scharf-Bell, NDMS Acting Director. "In addition to basic and acute health care services, NDMS personnel are providing behavioral health and case management services. NDMS personnel are also working at the local hospitals in Shiprock and Chinle to augment hospital staff, and at an Indian Health Service facility in Gallup, New Mexico."

Since January, HHS has deployed thousands of personnel - including physicians, nurses, paramedics, IT specialists, public affairs specialist, and experienced command and control staff - to help states, territories, and jurisdictions respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. This is a historic, unprecedented outbreak, the likes of which have not been seen since the influenza pandemic of 1918. To learn more about HHS' response to the 2019-nCov, please visit www.phe.gov/Preparedness/nCoV/Pages/default.aspx and www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html.

NDMS is comprised of approximately 3,000 physicians, nurses, veterinary staff, paramedics, fatality management professionals, and experienced command and control staff, organized into several different response teams. Providing medical support during disasters and public health emergencies can overwhelm local and state resources. ASPR looks to the expertise within NDMS from across the country to assist in the response.

As part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, ASPR's mission is to save lives and protect Americans from 21st century health security threats. ASPR leads the nation's medical and public health preparedness for, response to, and recovery from disasters and public health emergencies. For more information about ASPR and NDMS, visit www.phe.gov.

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