Delaware Co. Medical Reserve Corps helping hospitals; large-scale COVID testing site opening

The Delaware County Medical Reserve Corps is made up of roughly 3,400 registered volunteers.
PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- Hospitals nationwide are doing the best they can as we approach the two-year mark of the COVID-19 pandemic.

One of their biggest challenges is staffing shortages. It's leaving hospitals struggling across the U.S.

Officials continue to stress two things that can help eliminate the strain on hospitals: get vaccinated and don't go to the ER looking for a COVID test.

"We have patients coming with absolutely no symptoms, with mild symptoms, and employers who are sending employees to the emergency department for testing," explained Dr. Kisha Martin, Chair of Emergency Medicine at Redeemer Health.

Officials in Montgomery County say non-emergency visits divert doctors' life-saving resources from patients who really need it.

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The Delaware County Medical Reserve Corps is made up of roughly 3,400 registered volunteers.

"We're seeing over 1,000 cases a day on average. That's more than we've seen at any point during the pandemic," said Dr. Val Arkoosh, chair of the Montgomery County Board of Commissioners.

Meanwhile, Walgreens and CVS announced that they are temporarily closing some stores and pharmacies on weekends due to staff shortages.

According to our Action News Data Journalism team, in Montgomery County, 83% of inpatient hospital beds are occupied. Of those, 17% are with COVID patients. Of their ICU beds, 78% are full with 23% of them being COVID patients.

Across the board, there is some hope.

In Philadelphia, there's been a slight drop in cases identified, but officials say we can't let our guard down.

"This does not mean the danger has passed. We are still seeing nearly 2,000 new cases per day," said Philadelphia Health Commissioner Dr. Cheryl Bettigole.

In Delaware County, four hospitals are now receiving extra help from the county's Medical Reserve Corps (MRC). Those hospitals are Crozer Chester Medical Center, Delaware County Memorial Hospital, Mercy Fitzgerald Hospital and Taylor Hospital.

The Delaware County Medical Reserve Corps is made up of roughly 3,400 registered volunteers.

Officials say they've been an extraordinary help by keeping hospitals on top of basic human elements, with staffing shortages that's something they've had trouble managing.

"Keeping things on the shelves, keeping things moving... just bringing a glass of water," said Gary Zimmer, Chief Medical Officer of Crozer Health.

Since early January, those volunteers have put in over 850 hours in 217 shifts, as the need for their assistance is far from over.

"At Crozer Chester Emergency Department most beds are occupied with patients waiting to go upstairs to regular beds or ICU beds. Just being able to get people through and out of the hospital has been incredibly challenging," Zimmer explained.

At this time, Delaware County officials say they have not put in any requests to the governor for additional help.

If you are interested in becoming a volunteer for the Delaware County Medical Reserve Corps, you can find more information here.

Officials said Wednesday that Delaware County was selected by the Pennsylvania Department of Health to be the host county for a new large-scale COVID-19 testing site for the Pennsylvania Southeast Community Health District, which includes Berks, Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Lancaster, Montgomery and Schuylkill counties.

The location, which opens on Thursday, was selected because it is in an area of the state with a large population and a significant increase in COVID-19 cases and testing needs.

The COVID-19 drive-thru testing site, located at Mercy Fitzgerald Hospital in Darby, will be open 7 days a week from 7:30 a.m. - 4:30 p.m. Pre-registration is encouraged:
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