423rd MDS fights COVID-19 with teamwork, vigilance

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Eugene Oliver
  • 501st Combat Support Wing Public Affairs

Throughout this year, the 423rd Medical Squadron has faced unprecedented challenges and circumstances in combating the COVID-19 pandemic.

Despite having to operate at 50% manning since March, many MDS Airmen have excelled in implementing the necessary measures and processes to ensure the safety of the Pathfinder family.

“During these unprecedented times, all the medics at 423rd MDS have made sacrifices to ensure the delivery of uninterrupted care to our community,” said Tech. Sgt. Yarely Jerez-Ortiz, 423rd MDS Family practice flight chief. “We aligned our manning with our mission so that immunizations, medical standards, and the Family Health elements provide the best patient experience with the manning limitations that we have faced.”

Jerez-Ortiz has played a key role in ensuring that the 501st Combat Support Wing was stocked with personal protective equipment, which has been in high demand across the globe since the pandemic began.

“During the initial pandemic response, I devised a list of essential PPE and infection control items currently stocked at the clinic, in addition to conducting a thorough inventory to document current stock levels and consequently track our burn rate,” said Jerez Ortiz. “I perform a weekly inventory of PPE supplies and place an order on the Defense Medical Logistics Standard Support (DMLSS) app and coordinate with the 48th Medical Group to ensure timely and accurate delivery of these items.

Additionally, to closely monitor and manage our PPE, they have been classified as controlled items, and access is limited to key personnel.”

In order to keep the public safe it’s important for the medics to be sufficiently trained and prepared to complete their mission.

“Our best defense, aside from handwashing/masks, is the knowledge of the illness and safety measures implemented,” said Tech. Sgt. Robert Bell, 423rd MDS noncommissioned officer in charge of training. “Our first priority was education, we educated staff with procedures and precautions. Then came educating the public.”

Bell’s efforts in ensuring the 423rd MDS is sufficiently trained include: Acquiring telehealth training for every provider within the building, trialing telehealth with Landstuhl Regional Medical Center and working diligently to ensure the Individual Medical Readiness rate for the clinic was number one in U.S. Air Forces in Europe – Air Forces Africa.

“It is always a team approach,” said Bell. “One can monitor and make calls, but without leadership support from all levels across our bases, our members cannot stay current.”

As the pandemic continues, the race to a vaccine also rages on. The 423rd MDS has developed a handling and storage plan, as well as designating a point of contact for when the vaccine is made available to the public.

“When the COVID vaccine is released, it is my duty to ensure we maintain proper handling and storage of the vaccine,” said Staff Sgt. Morgan Mack, 423rd MDS noncommissioned officer in charge of immunizations. “Depending on what stage of social distancing the U.K. is in during this time frame we will likely run the COVID vaccine the same way we handle the influenza vaccinations.”

While preparing for the release of the vaccine, Mack has also been involved in the process of safely testing patients as well as medics for COVID-19.

“I screen patients daily to ensure we catch any potential COVID patients prior to their arrival in the clinic,” said Mack. “I also swab patients for COVID and provide them with education on supportive care.

We have also created a timeslot specifically for COVID testing our members. We also have a “drive through” testing method to limit exposure.”

Overall, the 423rd MDS successfully continues to face the challenges of COVID-19, but it wouldn’t have been possible without the efforts of Airmen like Bell, Jerez-Ortiz and Mack, who have been key players in keeping the 501st CSW safe.