Gov. Kristi Noem announced Thursday afternoon that she would deploy the state’s National Guard to help build hospitals around the state, starting in Rapid City and Sioux Falls.
While hospitals in the state are already working on building up their capacity to add more beds and prepare for a surge, Noem said the National Guard would be setting up additional temporary hospital structures outside of pre-existing hospitals and clinics.
The National Guard would first help set up hospital capacity for 100 beds specifically for COVID-19 patients in Rapid City and Sioux Falls and then look at other communities that need help.
Noem said the state is using some federal funding to help cover the costs of the National Guard, which she said can be expensive to mobilize. She said she would release the details of which units will serve first at a later date.
“Many times when you’re pulling National Guard members out of communities, you’re leaving a hole there,” Noem said. “You’re leaving a hole because they’re the professionals that may be the doctors, the engineers, the folks in their communities that are serving as well.”
Noem said the temporary hospitals won’t be MASH hospitals as President Trump described March 17, but rather facilities that hospitals and clinics can divert their COVID-19 positive patients to so that they’re not housed next to other patients.
“These will be supplemental facilities that will be utilized in a way that makes sense to best take care of people and keep those that are impacted by the virus separated and make sure they have the level of care that they need available to them,” Noem said.
Kim Malsam-Rysdon, state health secretary, said the process is for the National Guard to assess available sites.
“They’re very well-versed in optimal settings that can help support these kinds of operations,” she said. “They will find environments that can support comfortable conditions for patients and providers. The assessment part of that will make sure those things are taken care of.”
Malsam-Rysdon said that in the meantime, every hospital in the state should still be able to serve its people.
“We’re in communication with every hospital to understand what capacity they will have so that we can understand how we can get that surge capacity where we’re going to need it,” she said. “To say that we have everything in place right now for what we will expect in the future is not accurate, but we’re working towards that.”
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