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    All In This Together: Army Reserve UAMTF 332-1 Strengthens University Hospital

    NEWARK, NJ, UNITED STATES

    04.30.2020

    Story by Sgt. ShaTyra Reed 

    22nd Mobile Public Affairs Detachment   

    NEWARK, NEW JERSEY – “One of the nurses as we came in said, ‘It feels like Christmas,'” said Maj. Erin Velazquez, commander of Urban Augmentation Medical Task Force 332-1, as she fought to hold back tears during an interview with NJTV News. “It hits your heart.”

    She was speaking about her team’s welcome at University Hospital in Newark, N.J., April 15, 2020.

    The medical task force Velazquez leads is a U.S. Army Reserve unit comprised of 85 healthcare professionals and support personnel. Specifically created to respond in times of crisis, the UAMTF is¬¬ living out that role augmenting the hospital.


    The civilian medical staff have been working very hard, said Capt. (Dr.) Chelsea Pluta, a psychiatrist with UAMTF 332-1. “I am just happy to be a presence for them and help out where they need us to,” she said.

    Prior to the arrival of UAMTF 332-1, University Hospital, the region’s only Level 1 trauma center, struggled to keep pace with patient needs said Dr. Shereef Elnahal, president and CEO of University Hospital. The nurse-to-patient ratio had risen to alarming levels when the Soldiers showed up to plug “very key gaps” in their frontline workforce, he said.

    “When we first got here, a lot of the staff was not here,” said Pfc. Holly Barnhouse, medical supply specialist, UAMTF 332-1. “Some were sick with COVID and some had to go back home to take care of their loved ones.”

    None of the Soldiers had experience treating a novel virus in a hospital setting before. One thing that Soldiers were able to bring to the table was a diverse civilian experience.

    Spc. Bailey Jorgensen, a combat medic, UAMTF 332-1, is a former captain of the Florida State University ice hockey team. He recently returned from a 3-month medical mission trip to Kenya. Jorgensen credited that mission for preparing him for his role at University Hospital.

    “The mission trip to Kenya definitely provided me a good background of knowledge in terms of being thrown in a new environment,” Jorgensen said. “I’ve never worked in a hospital before. When I went over there, I didn’t have a set thing that I was supposed to be doing. I was just there to be an extra hand to help doctors and nurses wherever they could use me, which is exactly what I am doing here.”

    The UAMTF expanded the ability of University Hospital to tend to all patients, to include COVID-19 positive patients, as they worked together to combat the spread of the virus and care for those patients requiring supportive medical care.

    “I feel honored and privileged to fight this fight with civilian healthcare workers that have been in this fight since day one,” said Sgt. Thomas Bjorklund, an occupational therapist specialist, UAMTF 332-1. “It has been overwhelming with the support that they’ve given us.”

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    NEWS INFO

    Date Taken: 04.30.2020
    Date Posted: 07.09.2020 12:21
    Story ID: 368953
    Location: NEWARK, NJ, US 
    Hometown: JACKSONVILLE, FL, US
    Hometown: MIAMI, FL, US
    Hometown: NASHVILLE, TN, US
    Hometown: SOMERSET, PA, US
    Hometown: VALRICO, FL, US

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