Bedford VA Medical Center’s first priority is the preparedness of our facilities to meet the needs of Veterans and their families. Our goal is to prevent COVID-19 infections from spreading within the VA, while maintaining our usual high level of care for all Veterans. This effort is coordinated at the VA, VHA and VISN levels to affect operations in all our facilities.
You may have concerns following the tragedy of what happened at Soldier’s Home in Holyoke. News sources allege the incident stemmed from a lack of isolation for symptomatic patients, lack of PPE for staff treating symptomatic patients, overcrowding conditions caused by lack of staff (consolidating wards), failure to address staff concerns, lack of COVID and death reporting, and a major staffing shortage since 2016.
To this end, we have been taking the following precautions:
- Bedford VAMC has been conducting an active screening process, with restricted access, to mitigate the risk of COVID-19 (Novel Coronavirus). Leadership at our medical center and clinics are ensuring that entry is minimized to the least necessary entryways, and are staffing them for controlled access, based on a screening process.
- We are in the process of shifting resources in order to have a separate COVID-positive unit, if needed, to isolate COVID-positive Veterans
- A process is in place to report and track Veterans and staff who screen positively. Those individuals will also be taken through a complete protocol that helps them and protects staff and others. Staff have been advised of the risks and the steps, to include proper PPE, to take if they find themselves feeling affected. In the event that an inpatient screen positive during their daily COVID screening or upon admission, they would be further evaluated for COVID.
- New admissions to 78G (acute inpatient psychiatry) will be tested for COVID
- Any Veteran coming into the Community Living Centers from another facility is quarantined for 14 days
- Any other admissions are evaluated upon admission
- Patients and staff are being advised of proper protocols addressing the virus through signage, electronic messaging in facilities, on the web, and through social media. Staff have been provided scripts for screening visitors and handling patients who answer screening questions affirmatively. Staff are also highly encouraged to contact Bedford VAMC’s Incident Command Team in order to have their concerns addressed.
- VHA has implemented restrictions on visitation to the wards in all facilities. Exceptions are done on a case-by-case basis only for those Veterans in palliative care.
- VHA facilities have temporarily ceased non-urgent elective procedures. This action will reduce unnecessary hospitalizations and Intensive Care Unit utilization and will free up resources to address COVID-19 if needed. VA is reviewing elective procedures with active clinical review and management to ensure Veterans continue to receive the appropriate, high-quality care.
- Bedford VAMC community-based outpatient clinics have transitioned routine care to telephone and other virtual modalities (telehealth) and/or postponed appointments based upon results of health screenings and Veteran requests to minimize exposure to COVID-19 at health care sites. In addition, the Pharmacy has converted outpatient prescriptions to mail-out where indicated and/or appropriate.
- The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) approved a request from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), March 19, to waive a section of federal law that governs retired VA workers. Though Bedford VAMC currently has adequate staffing levels, the waiver makes it easier for the department to rehire retired VA health care workers and will help VA health care facilities bolster their medical staffs during the COVID-19 pandemic. VA plans to use the waiver authority to begin hiring actions as early as this week, and the department is inviting interested retired physicians, nurses, pharmacists, laboratory technicians, respiratory therapists, and other medical professionals to register online. For more specific questions related to our VA New England Healthcare System and the clinical occupation re-hiring process, contact VISN 1 Human Resources at [email protected].
Track the number of Veteran patients in each facility with a positive COVID-19 diagnosis at https://www.publichealth.va.gov/n-coronavirus/index.asp. This is a rapidly evolving situation and the VA will provide updated information as it becomes available and verified.
Bedford VAMC operating status is continually updated for the public on our website at https://www.bedford.va.gov/emergency/index.asp