Amarillo VA: COVID surge plan in place for veterans and community if needed

Local News

AMARILLO, Texas (KAMR/KCIT) — The Amarillo VA Health Care System is seeing an uptick in COVID-19 cases, directly related to the Delta variant.

As a result, the VA said on Friday it is making changes to some of its visitation policies. Click here to see those changes.

On Monday, Dr. Catherine Ewing, the Associate Director of Patient Care Services/Nurse Executive, said, “Certainly I can’t say we’re at a phase of heightened need from our community at this time. But certainly, over the last couple of weeks, we’ve seen an increase in the uptick of cases, just like we’ve seen across the nation, and VA’s across the nation.”

Dr. Ewing said they are all concerned about how COVID has impacted our community and veteran population, and the VA is ready to help.

“We have a surge plan that’s ready to accommodate any additional needs that come from our veteran population and/or our community,” Dr. Ewing said. “So, when that time arises, the VA here in Amarillo is prepared to implement some of those additional surge plans. It’s just a matter of if that need will arise. We hope it does not.”

Dr. Ewing said should the VA’s Fourth Mission be activated, they have a detailed plan in place. She said those talks have started, but there is no request or approval for the VA to take in non-veteran citizens at this time.

“Amarillo VA Health Care team, specifically Nursing Services, stands ready and willing and able to care for veterans and our community should that need arise.”

Last week, learned Amarillo hospitals, including the VA, were near capacity.

Amarillo VA Health Care System’s Medical Center Director, Dr. Rodney Gonzalez, said on Wednesday, August 4, that even if a Fourth Mission Act request was approved, there was no room in the hospital to take in regular patients.

Dr. Gonzales said last week, “…I do want to highlight right now our hospital’s full too. So, even if I had that approval right now, I would not be able to accept any.”

Dr. Ewing said she hopes they will see an uptick in vaccinations as new cases increase.

“I can’t stress that vaccinations are very valuable and responding to this COVID variant that’s attacking the nation. Currently, vaccinations are readily available here at the healthcare system, they can be obtained on a walk-in basis,” Dr. Ewing said.

She continued, “The reason why we feel that is so very important is because we do know vaccinated individuals are at a lesser chance of having the severe outcome associated with COVID, which means you get hospitalized and into an ICU unit.”

Dr. Ewing also said she has heard positive feedback from veterans during the pandemic, especially after the VA Secretary mandated vaccines for medical staff on July 26, 2021.

“I think they’re very appreciative of the precautions that we’ve put in place to allow for care to continue moving forward. I think that they have also expressed some very positive perspectives associated with the Title 38 mandate to get vaccinated,” she continued. “So, I think they understand that we’re doing everything we can to assure that they know, when they step on our campus, they are safe to receive the care that is rightfully theirs to receive as veterans.”

Dr. Ewing also encouraged anyone with questions to talk to their doctor.

“There have been so many opportunities to receive information on media these days, it can be confusing for those who don’t have a medical background,” she said. “So, I would hate to think that somebody has misinterpreted something. So I highly encourage them reach out to your providers.”

For more information from Veterans Affairs, click here.

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