More than a year after the first reported case of COVID-19 in the United States, many hospitals and healthcare facilities across the nation are still struggling to find the resources necessary to provide adequate care for the increasing number of COVID patients.
Among those suffering the most during this pandemic are Veteran Affairs hospitals, which are not receiving the COVID support they need to care for veterans and fight COVID-19. While their hospitals are flooded with new COVID cases, VA hospitals are lacking the tools they need to combat this pandemic.
THE CORONAVIRUS PANDEMIC AND VETERANS AFFAIRS HOSPITALS
As VA hospitals see staggering numbers of COVID cases, it has been harder for them to fight COVID and provide patient care.
Here are a few of the issues caused by the lack of much needed COVID support in VA hospitals:
1. Healthcare Worker Shortages
With COVID-19 cases soaring into the thousands, VA hospitals have been forced to contract healthcare workers to keep up with the overwhelming caseload.
Since December, VA hospitals have had over 17,000 active COVID cases between staff and patients, and this number is only continuing to rise . Even with additional hospital staff, VA hospitals simply cannot keep up with the growing number of cases, especially because many of these healthcare workers need to take off work after contracting COVID-19 themselves. At the end of 2020, the VA reported almost 32,000 vacancies, and most of these vacancies were within the Veterans Health Administration .
“It’s like going against the army with a handgun,” says Marcellus Shields, a VA hospital representative from Wilmington, Delaware. “We’re outnumbered” .
As a result of these staff shortages, VA healthcare workers are faced with unmanageable demands and workloads. VA healthcare workers report juggling several more patients at a time than usual, spending more hours working overtime, and feeling like they are unable to take time off of work, even if they are at risk for contracting or spreading COVID among other concerns .
Staff shortages mean that employees are often overworked and required to manage too many patients at a time, which makes it difficult for them to provide the best possible care for their patients when it is needed most.
2. Lack of Adequate Personal Protective Equipment
In addition to staff shortages, VA hospitals have also been reporting difficulty with providing adequate personal protective equipment (PPE) for their employees . PPE like N95 masks and face shields are in short supply, which makes it hard for VA hospital healthcare workers, who are already at high risk for COVID-19 to safely care for COVID patients.
Treating COVID patients requires frequent PPE changes, and with the PPE shortages affecting VA hospitals, this means healthcare workers are forced to reuse decontaminated or inadequate PPE and further increase their risk for contracting the virus .
3. Transparency Issues
VA healthcare workers are at great risk for COVID-19 due to a lack of sufficient PPE and their close proximity to COVID positive individuals. In addition to caring for patients with confirmed cases of the coronavirus, VA workers are often around patients and colleagues who they do not know have COVID-19. Reported transparency issues have plagued the mental and physical health of VA healthcare workers, making it a struggle for them to provide patient care.
According to a survey conducted by the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE), 60% of VA workers were not alerted when their fellow healthcare staff contracted COVID and almost 50% were not notified before they began treating patients with COVID . When these workers are unaware that they are working with staff and patients who are COVID positive, and they are not wearing sufficient PPE, their chances of getting the virus skyrockets.
These transparency issues extend beyond VA employee’s knowledge of COVID positive individuals. Many VA healthcare workers report feeling a lack of support as the VA projects an image of their fight against COVID that does not align with the reality of VA healthcare workers and are not being transparent about their efforts to address staffing and PPE shortages.
VA workers who are union members have been advocating for changes since the start of the pandemic. AFGE President Everett B. Kelley reports that the VA’s mismanagement of the pandemic response and lack of transparency put front-line workers, their families, and veterans at risk” . Kelley goes on to add that the agency’s “mishandling of the pandemic has contributed to the spread of the virus throughout the facilities at an alarming rate” .
Employees like Marcellus Shields want the “real story” about how the VA is handling the COVID pandemic to be told, claiming that the problem at the VA is “not just about our numbers. This is about our veterans” .
Ultimately, it is these veterans that will suffer as a result of staff and PPE shortages and the transparency issues facing VA hospitals, which is why union members are willing to protest and speak out in order to try and improve VA hospital conditions and receive the support they so desperately need to combat COVID and provide care for veterans during the pandemic .
How the SCONE™ Addresses the VA Hospital Concerns
SCONE™ Medical Solutions created the SCONE™ as a way to help protect frontline healthcare workers so that they can deliver quality care to COVID patients.
When it comes to addressing the specific concerns and the lack of support that is preventing VA hospitals from providing quality care for their veterans, the SCONE™ offers a solution that can help minimize staff shortages, reduce the need for PPE, and help VA hospital healthcare workers treat the veterans in their care.
FDA approved for emergency use, the SCONE™ is a single-use device that uses negative pressure technology to clear infectious particles and aerosols in under five minutes. With this active barrier of protection, VA workers will be able to have less frequent PPE changes, allowing them to get by with their limited supply of personal protective equipment.
The SCONE™ also drastically decreases the risk of workers contracting COVID, keeping VA workers safe even when they are treating patients they do not know are COVID positive and reducing the amount of VA healthcare workers who are unable to work because they have contracted the virus.
Learn more about SCONE™ and how to get this device into your healthcare facility