Coronavirus Update for First District Veterans
From Jack Bergman, U.S. Representative for Michigan
1st Congressional District
With reports yesterday of confirmed Coronavirus cases in Otsego and Grand Traverse Counties, we know we must prepare, and take this illness seriously. Michigan's First District is home to over 50,000 of our nation's Veterans. As a Veteran and member of the House Committee on Veterans Affairs, I'm working to do my part to help ensure those who are serving and those who have served are protected and prepared.
I've compiled some Veteran-specific information that I believe will be helpful, and I encourage you to share it with our great Veteran community. As always, my staff and I remain available to help you navigate through these uncertain days, so don't hesitate to give us a call.
What should Veterans do if they think they have COVID-19?
Before visiting local VA medical facilities, community providers, urgent care centers, or emergency departments in their communities, Veterans experiencing COVID-19 symptoms—such as fever, cough, and shortness of breath—are encouraged to call their VA medical facility or call MyVA311(844-698-2311, press #3 to be connected).
Veterans can also send secure messages to their health care providers via MyhealtheVet, VA’s online patient portal. VA clinicians will evaluate Veterans’ symptoms and direct them to the most appropriate providers for further evaluation and treatment. This may include referral to state or local health departments for COVID-19 testing.
What about routine appointments and previously scheduled procedures?
VA is encouraging all Veterans to call their VA facility before seeking any care—even previously scheduled medical visits, mental health appointments, or surgical procedures. Veterans can also send secure messages to their health care providers via MyhealtheVet and find out whether they should still come in for their scheduled appointments. VA providers may arrange to convert appointments to video visits, where possible.
Can visitors still access VA medical facilities?
Many VA medical facilities have canceled public events for the time being, and VA is urging all visitors who do not feel well to postpone their visits to local VA medical facilities. Facilities have also been directed to limit the number of entrances through which visitors can enter. Upon arrival, all patients, visitors, and employees will be screened for COVID-19 symptoms and possible exposure.
What about VA nursing homes and spinal cord injury units?
On March 10, 2020, VA announced that its 134 nursing homes (also called VA community living centers) and 24 spinal cord injury and disorder centers would be closed to all outside visitors. All clinical staff will be screened for COVID-19 daily before entering the nursing home or spinal cord injury units, and staff will work only within those units to limit possible transmission of the virus. Exceptions to the visitor policy will only be made for cases when veterans are in their last stages of life on hospice units or inpatient spinal cord injury units.
Saginaw VA Medical Center
Veterans who utilize the Aleda E. Lutz VA Medical Center in Saginaw, are encouraged to visit www.saginaw.va.gov for the latest information and updates. Additionally, all activities/events at the VA have been canceled for 30 days or until further notice. Admissions to our Community Living Center or Palliative Care Unit are restricted at this time. Certain criteria will need to be met to be admitted to assure the Veteran is free of the Coronavirus before admission.
The VA is not allowing visitors to their Community Living Center, and there are restrictions on the number of visitors on the Palliative Care (end of life) Unit.
Iron Mountain VA Medical Center
Veterans who utilize the Oscar G. Johnson VA Medical Center in Iron Mountain are encouraged to visit www.ironmountain.va.gov for the latest information. For the safety of patients, visitors and staff, the Iron Mountain VA Medical Center is changing its visitation policy for all its health care facilities in the Upper Peninsula and Northern Wisconsin to help to combat the spread of the Coronavirus. Effective at noon CST, March 16th, the VA medical center and its seven community-based VA clinics are not allowing visitors for most patients and staff until further notice.
Visitors will be prohibited from entering the medical center unless it is necessary for providing medical care, supporting patient care activities, or visiting under exigent circumstances, such as grave illness or imminent death of a family member under care in the facility.
The VA has implemented an aggressive public health response to protect and care for Veterans in the face of this emerging health risk. We are working directly with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other federal partners to monitor the outbreak of the virus.
VA has administered over 100 COVID-19 tests nationwide while taking aggressive steps to prevent COVID-19 transmission.
These measures include outreach to Veterans and staff, clinical screening at VA health care facilities, and protective procedures for patients admitted to community living centers and spinal cord injury units. To learn more, click HERE.
Leslie C. McLean