Watch CBS News

'A Boost At The Right Time': Federal Teams Help Minnesota Hospitals Overwhelmed By COVID

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- Gov. Tim Walz announced Thursday a third federal emergency medical team is on its way to Minnesota.

A staff of 14 doctors and nurses from the Department of Health and Human Services will arrive at M Health Fairview Southdale in Edina on Friday.

The medical teams are providing support during the surge of COVID-19 cases and ongoing hospital staffing shortages.

A group from the U.S. Air Force started their work this week at St. Cloud Hospital.

WCCO went along for one of their shifts.

On the fifth floor of St. Cloud Hospital, Jim James is close to going home after a stay that began Monday.

"We thought he was having a heart attack so we called an ambulance," said his daughter, Cindy James.

It was sepsis that had the 87-year-old waiting five hours for an open bed and for a doctor from 1,200 miles away.

"He did not have COVID, and he needed immediate action and we got it," James said.

Dr. Ben Dahlberg, a U.S. Air Force captain, is stationed in Mississippi.

"It's an honor and privilege to serve wherever we're needed," he said.

He's one of 23 who spent their Thanksgiving weekend in St. Cloud training to help relieve a hospital system grappling with a staffing shortage and another COVID surge.

"It's been a hard hitter. We've been tasked all over the U.S. to support FEMA in addition to local hospitals down in Mississippi overrun by COVID patients," he added.

Thirty of the 102 patients at St. Cloud Hospital with COVID-19 are in the ICU. Overall, 25% of the hospital's patients are fighting the virus.

Dr. Tim Ebel is a hospitalist at CentraCare's St. Cloud Hospital.

"It's tough for the staff to see young healthy people really suffering and struggling to breathe and damaging their health," he said. "It's really hard to watch sometimes."

Ebel says 82% of COVID patients are not vaccinated.

Where last year was more of a sharp peak, Ebel says, this year feels like a peak and then a mesa.

"It doesn't drop back down," he said.

It's why he's grateful for federal help in the form of this new team.

"Just psychologically, it just feels like a boost at the right time," Ebel said.

It's to ensure hospital care is still available when families like the James need it most.

"I think it's just incredible we have these people who will come in and do this and help everybody out," Cindy James told WCCO.

The team in St. Cloud is on a 30-day deployment but their stay could be extended depending on the need.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.