Department of Veterans Affairs

VA at the Ready, But How Ready for Coronavirus?

NBC Connecticut Investigates obtained a report on Federal Veterans’ Hospitals looking at their preparedness for the coronavirus pandemic

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The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has a broad hospital network in Connecticut.  Its largest facility is the VA Hospital in West Haven.

The West Haven VA was one of more than 200 VA facilities across the country that had unannounced inspections less than two weeks ago, to vet their readiness for the coronavirus pandemic.

The West Haven VA Medical Center

A new report by the VA’s inspector general said the West Haven VA hospital did well when it came to testing, and security.  

It said the West Haven VA has been conducting onsite coronavirus sampling to send off for testing.  Some facilities have not been doing that.  The West Haven VA has also screened anyone coming on campus for coronavirus, and the VA’s “no visitors” policy for patients since the outbreak began has been enforced in West Haven.

A report on the coronavirus readiness at the U.S. Veterans' Health Administration facilities was released March 26, 2020

When it came to personnel and supplies, the West Haven VA got mixed reviews.

The Office of Inspector General report said the West Haven VA did not have enough nurses to optimize care in wards and ICUs.  The hospital has enough supplies of items like masks, gloves, and swabs.  But there are a few, but limited, medication shortages, and, the West Haven VA has no plan in place to share personal protective equipment or ICU beds with the community if the need arises.  

As for any personnel shortages, Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert Wilkie said the agency can handle it. 

“We have thousands of former employees who retired, went on to do something else, but they keep their credentials up.  They keep us informed that they can return in the event of a national emergency," he said.

U.S. Secretary of Veterans' Affairs Robert Wilkie discusses the coronavirus readiness of his agency's medical centers

The report did say the West Haven VA had enough doctors, security, and cleaning staff on hand.  

There was also a brief, but positive mention in this report for VA outpatient clinics in Winsted, Willimantic, and Waterbury.  

Inspectors said all three locations did a good job screening for coronavirus there. 

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