The Rhode Island National Guard (RING) has a unique and important mission.
The service members are people from the local community that serve their country and state on a part time basis. Soldiers and Airmen of the RING were called upon in the past by the governor to help respond to things such as hurricanes, floods, blizzards, and gas and power outages. They also provide support to other states and territories when disaster strikes.
When the COVID-19 pandemic began, the RING was called upon again. This time, the mission was unlike others they had faced in the past but they rose to the challenge and began constructing a plan to keep their fellow Rhode Islanders safe. The Rhode Island emergency response team needed to increase the state’s hospital capacity by 1,500 beds; far too many to fit into existing hospitals. The answer was obvious; the state needed more hospitals.But how would the state of Rhode Island establish three alternate care hospitals in such a short amount of time?
The answer is simple — collaboration.
The three alternate care hospitals were constructed in Providence, Cranston, and North Kingstown RI.
U.S. Army Lt. Col., Jamie Scott, of the Rhode Island Army National Guard was assigned as the site lead. In this role, Scott worked in conjunction with the Department of Health and Human Services as a liaison between the RING and the state. His role provided oversight and ensured that this mission was completed in a timely manner to the specifications of the health care providers.
“This began as a concept, an empty space that had no real form,” said Scott. “Then with a lot of smart people getting together and figuring out what the need was and how this was going to be built, we made it happen. To watch them go from a concept to an actual freestanding clinical space was just amazing.”
When called upon to take on the role of site lead, Scott was excited to help his community and be an ambassador for the RING. “As a guardsman, we are supposed to be able to serve and protect as needed,” said Scott. “So, when all of a sudden the governor called upon us and I was chosen to take on this role, I considered it an honor and a privilege to be able to help my community.”Scott’s full time role in the guard is serving as a grants officer representative for the United States Property and Fiscal Office (USPFO). The mission of the USPFO is to receive and account for all funds and property of the United States government in the possession of the National Guard of the specified state or territory. Scott’s role as a grants officer is to monitor the cooperative agreement between the RING and the state of RI to ensure that reimbursements for services and supplies are paid for in accordance with regulatory guidance.
The planning that went into these sites was no easy task, it took collaboration between many organizations and lots of planning. “We would have multiple meetings daily when this all started so that we could sort out the must haves for each site,” Scott said. Some of the main concerns were how the design should look, what the requirements were, and what the minimum was to make each site fully functional.Civilian health care workers and National Guard health care providers were brought on to bridge the gap between healthcare and military lingo and to help plan for the possibility of a surge.
“We all got together to ask, what’s the vision? How do we make this come to life?” said Scott. With ideas from New York and the state of Washington and some input from the Army Corps of Engineers, the vision became a reality.“Once all of the partners got together, we were able to figure out what services organizations would need to bring to these sites,” said Scott. “We would fill in gaps for requirements like medical equipment or beds from the Rhode Island Emergency Medical Agency (RIEMA) in order to have a fully functional care site.”
This was a state driven operation and getting the state and the military ways of operating to align was key. “The military has a particular way of getting things done so finding that common ground and having an understanding of how each agency works was important,” said Scott. “My professional background assisted me but what I feel helped the most was being able to relate to people and work collaboratively.”