The regional hospital in Tuba City, Arizona, is one of a handful of hospitals to serve the United States’ largest Native American reservation.

Located in a remote, poverty-stricken region, some residents do not have water or electricity and often share homes with a number of family members, factors that have fueled the spread of COVID-19. 

Susan Briggs, MD, stands with one of the hospital’s ED nurses next to an unidentified portrait
Susan Briggs, MD, stands with one of the hospital’s ED nurses next to an unidentified portrait.

Facing a surge of COVID-19 patients and limited resources to cope with them, the hospital turned to a U.S. government Trauma and Critical Care Team (TCCT) led by Susan Briggs, MD, of the Massachusetts General Hospital Department of Surgery. Deployed to the hospital for ten days, Briggs and 14 other clinicians worked in the intensive care units and the emergency department. “Our members shared our experiences in disaster preparedness and response to help the hospital more effectively utilize their personnel to meet the increasing number of patients,” says Briggs. “We also taught a number of ‘train the trainer’ courses in the use of personal protective equipment and ventilator care.”

Briggs, whose previous deployments have included Ground Zero, Hurricane Katrina and the Haiti earthquake, says this was a particularly unusual and rewarding deployment. “This hospital is run entirely by the Navajo tribe and serves both Navajo and Hopi populations,” she says. “It was an honor to assist them in their time of need.”