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Wisconsin National Guard mission supporting nursing home staff to soon end, despite calls for extension

The Journal Times - 5/11/2022

May 12—DOVER — The Wisconsin National Guard's mission in the Veterans Home at Union Grove, with some of its citizen soldiers and airmen serving as certified nursing assistants to combat ongoing staffing shortages at long-term care facilities across the state, is now due to end Sunday, May 15.

It was originally reported that the mission was to end Wednesday, May 11.

The Veterans Home at Union Grove, located in the Town of Dover adjacent to the Village of Union Grove, is a nursing home for veterans and family members of military veterans.

The mission that sent the National Guard into nursing homes started in January, when "the Wisconsin National Guard began dispatching additional personnel to dozens of other healthcare facilities around the state to assist with staffing shortages amidst the Omicron variant surge," Wisconsin National Guard Maj. Joe Trovato said in an email Wednesday.

Statewide, those "operations have largely ended," Trovato said. "However, there are currently 16 Wisconsin National Guard members assisting at the Union Grove facility."

In March, Wisconsin's GOP Congressional delegation issued a letter calling on Gov. Tony Evers to start planning to pulling the Guard out of Wisconsin's nursing homes, noting that the Guard was never intended to be a permanent fix.

But on Tuesday, two state-level elected Republicans from Racine County issued a letter asking Evers to ensure the mission would be extended. Those two, Assembly Speaker Robin Vos and state Sen. Van Wanggaard, had visited the Veterans Home on Monday, where they said they spoke with those living at the home who shared fears that their quality of care will diminish once the Guard leaves.

In an interview late Tuesday afternoon, Vos said that concerns regarding "all kinds of different issues" were raised to him and Wanggaard by residents of Veterans Home at Union Grove and their family members.

In February, Evers had issued a letter to President Joe Biden, asking for extended federal funding that could have kept the mission going, but the funding was never approved.

Trovato's email concluded: "The Wisconsin National Guard's presence at all healthcare facilities was always intended to be temporary in nature to assist the state in addressing the Omicron variant surge while simultaneously helping to alleviate staffing shortages at a critical time. The end of this mission was long-planned and based on the end of federal funding to support the Wisconsin National Guard's mobilization in support of the pandemic. The federal authorization for the National Guard's COVID-19 response will end July 1, necessitating the end of Wisconsin National Guard operations in the coming weeks so troops can begin transitioning back to their civilian lives."


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