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Arizona senators urge Ducey to deploy National Guard to ease hospital staffing shortfalls

Arizona National Guard
Ross D. Franklin/AP
Members of an Arizona National Guard unit load up a Black Hawk helicopter to deliver medical supplies to the remote Navajo Nation town of Kayenta due to the coronavirus Tuesday, March 31, 2020, in Phoenix.

In recent weeks, some Arizona health care facilities have faced worker shortages amid surging cases of COVID-19. Now Arizona’s U.S. Senators are urging Governor Doug Ducey to deploy the Arizona National Guard to help out.

In a recent letter to Ducey, Democrats Mark Kelly and Kyrsten Sinema said hospital staffing shortfalls in the state are worsening health outcomes for vulnerable populations and putting lives at risk. They want the governor to send National Guard troops to fill that void by performing so-called wraparound services like patient transport, cleaning and sanitation, fencing and security.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency is funding all National Guard activities related to the pandemic and vaccine initiatives until April 1.

The Guard is under the control of the governor, and so far he has not authorized the deployment. A Ducey spokesperson says the governor’s office hasn’t received any requests from Arizona hospitals for National Guard assistance, and that COVID cases and hospitalizations are now leveling off.

Many medical facilities in the state, however, continue to experience severe staffing shortages as the omicron variant has created all-time-high case numbers and deaths. At least one Arizona hospital is allowing some employees who’ve tested positive for the virus to continue working.

Ryan joined KNAU's newsroom in 2013. He covers a broad range of stories from local, state and tribal politics to education, economy, energy and public lands issues, and frequently interviews internationally known and regional musicians. Ryan is an Edward R. Murrow Award winner and a frequent contributor to NPR.