Retired medical workers step up to help fight coronavirus

Published: Mar. 27, 2020 at 3:01 PM EDT
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With COVID-19 cases skyrocketing in New York, the health care system is being stretched thin. More and more retired medical professionals are now volunteering to join the medical reserve corps to help in this crisis.

As a primary care physician and public health leader, Dr. Jane Bedell has served New York City communities for decades. She retired a few weeks ago, just as the coronavirus outbreak was escalating.

"It's not what I was expecting a year ago when I was planning, carefully planning my own retirement," Bedell said.

She eventually planned to volunteer for the New York City Medical Reserve Corps, a trained group of thousands of health professionals at the ready to respond to emergencies. But in the wake of the pandemic, she signed up right away.

"In a funny sense, I feel lucky that I have this way of giving back and being part of the response," Bedell said.

States around the nation are recruiting volunteers to respond to the coronavirus.

"We know there's gonna be a need for medical personnel as our hospitals get stretched, more patients come in, and so the Medical Reserve Corps is a great place to go to be able to get additional staffing. So we're working very closely with hospital systems, nursing care facilities," said Herman Schaffer, the assistant commissioner of community outreach for New York City Emergency Management.

Schaffer says 400-600 people are signing up to volunteer every day.

"We recruit anybody with a medical license. So we could be talking doctors, nurses, RNs, EMTs. But there are a lot of support roles, especially as we are trying to step down services and be able to support those who are recovering," he explained.

Bedell was part of the response to several tropical storms and Ebola.

"I feel grateful that I have a pretty clear route to giving back and contributing and it draws on my experience," she said.

Bedell hopes more people will answer the call to help if they can.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said that in addition to the thousands of medical professionals volunteering, more than 8,600 mental health professionals have also volunteered their services.