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Local healthcare workers volunteer with CA Health Corps and SLO Co. Medical Reserve

Posted at 6:34 PM, Apr 03, 2020

Medical professionals across California are volunteering to treat COVID-19 patients, but many are responding knowing they may not be equipped with proper protective gear.

Governor Gavin Newsom is calling anyone and everyone with a medical background to help respond to a potential influx of patients at Alternative Care Sites.

The state is looking for:

  • Physicians (MD, DO), including medical residents
  • Pharmacists
  • Dentists
  • Nurse practitioners
  • Physician assistants
  • Nurses (RN, LVN, CNA), including nursing students
  • Behavioral health professionals (psychiatrist, psychiatric technicians psychologist, psychiatric nurse practitioner, LCSW, LMFT, LPCC)
  • Respiratory therapists
  • Paramedics
  • Medical assistants
  • Emergency medical technicians

Volunteers like Templeton native Payal Patel have already answered that call and are now waiting for their assignment.

Patel is hoping to get her own hands-on experience with the California Health Corps after her San Diego State University nursing program went virtual.

“I want to be back in the hospital setting. I feel like it's important to be helping out if I can, but at the same time, it's also risky because I don't want to be bringing something back home," said Patel, a senior nursing student at SDSU.

She knows the risk increases when there's a shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) like masks and gloves. At least 15 of the 93 COVID-19 cases in San Luis Obispo County are health care workers.

“I have friends and family who are also nurses and they tell me they feel like they are going into war when they go into work because they can't even protect themselves,” Patel said.

Patel hopes she gets an assignment on the Central Coast, but she could go elsewhere in the state which is something Assemblyman Jordan Cunningham doesn't want.

He, along with 10 legislators, wrote to Newsom asking to "ensure that rural counties like ours are able to mobilize and assist our local residents."

To keep local health workers local, the San Luis Obispo County Office of Emergency Services is screening people for their own Medical Reserve Corps.

So far, there have been 300 applicants, one of whom is a registered nurse at Atascadero State Hospital.

If accepted, she and the other local volunteers will work at the Alternative Care Site inside Cal Poly's Recreation Center.

“ I would feel almost guilty not to be helping more on the front lines where all of my friends are,” said Brittany Bechtel, who applied to the SLO County Medical Reserve Corps.

To be eligible for COVID-19 emergency medical staffing roles, you must:

  • Be 18 years of age or over
  • Be eligible to work in the United States
  • Have a valid driver’s license or passport, and a Social security card
  • Have a valid California License for clinical practice (if you are a MD, DO, etc.)
  • OR are a medical resident or nursing student
  • Have no negative licensure/certification actions (for licensed/certified professionals)

Newsom also asked retirees to serve, but a longtime Central Coast pediatrician retired early for a reason--- to protect his wife who lives with underlying health conditions.

“I realized that so many cases could potentially be asymptomatic, that only seeing apparently well children was not a protection,” said Dr. James Coryell, a retired pediatrician with Central Coast Pediatrics. “I made the decision to do the most extreme form of social distancing which was to retire and stay at home.”