The National Guard has arrived at Heywood Hospital

December 29, 2021

GARDNER, MA — Reinforcements have arrived in the fight against the pandemic.

Nine members of the National Guard have joined Heywood Healthcare to provide additional support for the health system through March 20, 2022.

According to Dawn Casavant, vice president of external affairs and executive director of the Heywood Healthcare Charitable Foundation, help from the National Guard will benefit Heywood Healthcare as its faces staffing limitations and an increased number of patients seeking care as COVID-19 cases rise locally.

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“We currently have numerous vacant positions and we have some key areas that we could use some support, which include patient observers in the emergency department, security support, and in-hospital transportation, which means helping patients with a wheelchair, if needed, to get from point A to point B,” said Casavant. “We have lots of patients coming in and needing support and assistance with wayfinding and with the wheelchair.”

With approximately more than 300 vacant positions, Heywood Healthcare is trying to combat this obstacle, offering sign-up bonuses, incentives as well as referral incentives. However, due to the limited workforce pool at this time, Heywood Healthcare is one of the many hospitals in the nation that faces the challenge of being understaffed during the ongoing pandemic.

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Nine National Guard members will be assisting Heywood Healthcare until March 2022.
A recent effort was made by the Massachusetts Hospital Association (MHA) to work with hospitals to determine what the primary needs are. MHA then approached Gov. Charlie Baker with this issue, resulting in the activation last week of 500 National Guard personnel to be assigned to Massachusetts hospitals in need of additional help.

Casavant said that this is the first event of its kind to have happened during her career and also Heywood Healthcare’s existence. The National Guard members were selected based on their proximity to the hospital and their residency for easier commuting, according to the staff sergeant that accompanied the Guard personnel to the hospital on their first day, Monday, Dec. 27.

Like any other staff of the hospital, the Guard personnel will work for Heywood Healthcare for 40 hours per week, with all three shifts included until March 2022.