Poplar Bluff, MO – At the Department of Veterans Affairs, the safety of our Veterans and employees is the highest priority.
Libby Johnson, Associate Director at the John J. Pershing VA Medical Center (VAMC) and crisis management Incident Commander, announced the local medical center will be implementing “Tier 2” COVID-19 planning measures effective Wednesday, March 18, at 6:00 a.m.
“None of our patients have been diagnosed with COVID-19 and up to now, our preparedness management measures have focused on minimizing exposure for vulnerable Veteran populations (hospital and nursing home residents), educating staff and Veterans, and screening patients for COVID-19 indications,” stated Johnson. “However, additional precautionary measures are prudent at this point, given the continued national growth of infections. Now that we have received national guidance to halt non-urgent elective procedures, we will implement Tier 2 actions in a systematic and controlled manner,” Johnson explained.
Johnson explained that Tier 2 procedures will include screening all entrants (staff, Veterans, contractors, and visitors) to medical center grounds, applying advanced staffing plans, and utilizing telemedicine where possible.
“All entrances to the medical center will be closed to traffic except the front (main) entrance, which will be used for Veteran access, and the rear entrance, which will be used by employees,” Johnson said. “Veterans will need to enter the building through the current urgent care entrance (north side of the medical center) as all other doors to the main facility will be closed to non-staff traffic. Screening posts will also be established for the community clinics in Farmington, Cape Girardeau, Sikeston, and West Plains, Missouri, as well as Paragould and Pocahontas, Arkansas. The Salem, Missouri clinic will be temporarily closed due to staffing shortages and other concerns.”
Other measures Johnson described which will take effect on Wednesday include:
- Halting non-urgent elective procedures GI/GU, dental, and optometry
- Discontinuing the shuttle to VA St. Louis Health Care Center (John Cochran and Jefferson Barracks VA Medical Centers)
- Temporarily closing onsite Veterans Service Offices (American Legion, VFW, and DAV)
- Temporarily closing the medical center branch of the Ozark Federal Credit Union
- Temporarily halting the volunteer program
- Reviewing and possibly canceling some group activities and therapies
- Reviewing and curtailing some Veterans Transportation Service (VTS) routes
- Limiting visitors at all locations to one accompanying immediate family member or caregiver allowed within the building for scheduled appointments
- Allowing only animals needed for Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) purposes (such as seeing-eye dogs) on station.
- Accepting scheduled deliveries only through the north entrance.
- Postponing all food bank distributions until further notice.
- The nursing home and acute care areas remain closed to visitors (from Tier 1)
“These proactive actions will assist with reducing the spread of the virus, and protecting our Veterans, employees, and communities,” Johnson said. “Reducing unnecessary procedures will free up resources to address possible increases in the number of Veterans under evaluation.”
Johnson said the medical center will remain open for urgent and clinical needs. “We hope our Veterans will remember to call before they come if they are experiencing flu-like symptoms, fever, or respiratory distress,” she said, citing the main call center number of 573-686-4151. “We will explore options for virtual visits and other ways to help keep them safe at home.”
“We appreciate the patience of our Veterans and community members as we do our part to address this national crisis in the most organized and safest way possible,” Johnson concluded. “The whole country is pulling together to do what is necessary to prevent the spread of the disease.”