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Army Medicine leaders visit BACH’s COVID-19 frontlines

Soldier in mask speaking to other soldiers RHC-A Commander Brig. Gen. Paula Lodi (center) received a first-hand look at BACH's COVID-19 drive-thru testing center during her July 28 visit to Fort Campbell. Brig. Gen. Lodi met with leaders from the hospital, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) and Fort Campbell to observe the hospital's COVID-19 response and support efforts for the health of the force and beneficiaries. (Photo by Maria Yager, Blanchfield Army Community Hospital)

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The new command team for the Army’s Regional Health Command-Atlantic located on Fort Belvoir, Virginia visited Blanchfield Army Community Hospital and met with leaders from the hospital, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) and Fort Campbell, Kentucky at the end of July. 

During the visit, RHC-A Commander Army Brig. Gen. Paula Lodi and RHC-A Senior Enlisted Advisor Army Command Sgt. Maj. Rebecca Booker received a first-hand look at BACH COVID-19 operations, observing the COVID clinic and call-center, drive-thru testing site, lab and supporting services. The command team also received details about the hospital’s progress in resuming healthcare services for beneficiaries that were paused nationwide at the onset of the pandemic and the hospital’s role enabling medical readiness for the 101st and Fort Campbell units. 

“It is always good to get out and meet with the leadership and to be able to walk around the facility and see how things are being operationalized at the tactical level. The BACH team is doing an incredible job keeping the division medically ready and keeping beneficiary healthcare in check,” said Lodi, who recently assumed command of the largest health command in Army Medicine. 

“To be able to see these operations in action gives sergeant major and I a unique perspective to take back to the region headquarters and to know what resources and information are needed to best do the job here in support of the Fort Campbell community,” said Lodi. 

BACH commander Army Col. Patrick Birchfield briefed Lodi on a number of topics ranging from soldier health readiness and COVID response to programs supporting wounded, ill and injured soldiers and care for retirees and military families. The commander shared both successes and challenges in the face of a global pandemic. 

Birchfield took Lodi out to a testing site to see how hospital staff are supporting pre-deployment COVID-19 testing for an entire brigade combat team of soldiers. 

The division’s 2nd Brigade Combat Team, “Strike,” announced it will deploy Soldiers to the Army’s Joint Readiness Training Center at Fort Polk, Louisiana in August and every soldier scheduled to deploy must undergo a mandatory COVID-19 test prior to departure. 

Working with the division surgeon, BACH staff including epidemiologists, preventative medicine specialists, and other healthcare professionals developed a plan to test more than 4,000 soldiers, which may serve as a model for other units. 

“This time last year, COVID-19 and the challenges it presents weren’t on anyone’s radar. In just a short time, our medical teams have had to quickly create a plan of action and execute a response to this never-before-seen virus to protect the health of the force while determining how to continue to provide the safest quality care possible to our beneficiaries,” said Birchfield. “The fact that in just four months we have gone from zero testing capabilities to testing an entire brigade combat team for a deployment is a testament to the adaptability of our team.” 

Lodi agreed and shared it is a pattern she is seeing across the region. 

“Sergeant major and I have visited a number of different locations and what has impressed us the most is how every location has tailored their response to the individual needs of their community and their supported senior mission commander,” said Lodi. 

Booker emphasized the important role healthcare professionals serve during this pandemic, encouraging them to stave off “COVID fatigue” and remain vigilant. 

“Every staff member is a valued member of our team and the job skillset they have is valued. Adhering to the CDC standards and all the standards that the command teams have put into place is important because we need each and every one on our team to carry out this Army mission. We need them to consistently be able to have a medically ready force and a medical force that is ready to deploy at a moment’s notice,” said Booker. 

“Safety is the number one priority when we turn to readiness, especially when we bring back a lot of our staff members and the teleworkers we had working from home. We have to ensure their safety and every mitigation is put into place because they are valued members of our team and we are sharing that with command teams throughout the region. 

Lodi and Booker also took time to personally recognize healthcare workers from the COVID-19 Clinic and supporting clinics who have served on the hospital’s frontline, weekends, nights and holidays since day one of BACH’s pandemic response. 

COVID-19 team leads Alisa Rivers and Amanda Goyette helped establish the hospital’s COVID-19 Clinic’s testing protocols and trained personnel from the hospital and Fort Campbell units how to safely swab patients who may be infected with the virus while preventing the spread of the highly infectious disease to themselves and other patients and staff. 

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