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Medical volunteers offer help and support in a 'really chaotic place'

Wednesday, a group of highly trained nurses arrived at Armstrong International Airport, eager to lend a hand at Tulane University Hospital.

NEW ORLEANS — For overworked medical professionals, now on the front lines of the coronavirus battle, back up is now arriving in New Orleans.

Gov. John Bel Edwards put out a call for doctors and nurses in other parts of the country, not so hard hit by the virus, to volunteer their services in our local hospitals.

Wednesday, a group of highly trained nurses arrived at Armstrong International Airport, eager to lend a hand at Tulane University Hospital.

The nurses normally work in HCA hospitals in the Kansas City area.

HCA also operates Tulane’s medical center.

“We certainly do empathize with our nurses down here with the shortage of supplies that they're dealing with, with the influx of patients,” nurse volunteer Justin Collins said. “We understand that it’s pretty tough, so we’re hoping to help in any way.”

“I just feel like I am meant to be here,” nurse volunteer Aliyah Haynes said. “I am meant to help. I was just so sure that I wanted to come here.”

KC has not seen the same level of coronavirus infection as New Orleans.

“I don’t know what to expect,” Haynes said. “I think that obviously it will be different from what we’re experiencing in Kansas City, but I think we’re mentally ready for it. We’ll just take the proper precautions we need to take.”

Last week, a call for help went out across hospitals in the KC area.

“Without a doubt, the response was yes, I’ll be down,” HCA Regional VP for Nursing Operations Suzanne Ford said. “I’ll do it. What plane you want to put me on? Right now, we have about 20 volunteers that will be rotating through between this week and next. We do have 200 nurses that volunteered.”

Currently, several floors of Tulane Hospital are strictly for coronavirus patients.

“I’m just a little nervous, Collins said. “I think we’re all a little nervous about coming down here where there’s a greater outbreak than there is where we’re currently working. We all understand the risks involved and we think they’re worth it.”

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A hospital spokeswoman said the volunteers won’t be required to quarantine for 14 days when they return to Kansas City.

HCA is paying to house the medical volunteers at a hotel near Tulane Hospital.

“I know what it’s like to be in a stressful environment, to have a lot of patients, a heavy load and not feel like you have a lot of help, so I figured I would be some help where it’s needed,” Haynes said.

“I feel like if I was in the same situation, I would love for someone to come help me,” Collins said. “I feel it’s the thing Jesus would do, to offer love and support down here to not only the patients but to the fellow nurses and just to be a light down here in a really chaotic place.”

Health care workers from out of state can get free flights through Delta Airlines into Louisiana to help as medical volunteers.

Gov. Edwards suspended certain licensing and certification requirements for doctors and nurses who come to the state to help during this public health emergency. 

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