VA Bedford Healthcare System
May 29, 2020: COVID operational update
BEDFORD, Mass. – Bedford VA Medical Center has shifted focus toward expansion of care initiatives throughout its facilities to provide medically appropriate care that reduces risk of COVID-19 transmission to Veterans and staff.
As a High Reliability Organization, the safety of Veterans and staff is, and must be, the highest priority when considering the provision of health care services, items and procedures during the COVID-19 pandemic. Before any clinical care is delivered, safe infrastructure and support must be in place.
The medical center will examine the future of care provided to Veterans by Bedford VAMC, while adhering to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and relevant federal, state and local public health guidance and recommendations; the safety of our Veterans and staff members is paramount and part of VHA’s culture.
Until services are resumed, Veterans are asked to continue the process of calling the Patient Care line at (800) 838-6331 before visiting us; you may be able to access VA care from home by phone or using VA virtual care options.
Discontinuation of Test-Based Precautions
This week, Bedford VAMC is implementing a change of policy for discontinuation of transmission-based precautions for Veterans from a test-based strategy to a time/symptom-based strategy, which has been used successfully with employees for the past month.
The switch in strategy is specifically for the advantages it provides to our patients, staff and the facility:
- Alleviates the discomfort of repeated testing via nasal swab
- Removes the need for retesting Veterans for whom the experience is especially traumatic
- Speeds up moves to recovery units for rehabilitation
- Increases hospital’s capacity to accept new Veterans
Time/symptom-based strategy follows protocol for symptomatic versus asymptomatic individuals based on CDC data that shows it is common for COVID+ individuals to continue to “shed” non-infectious, dead virus particles from the 10th day for up to six weeks following their original positive test or symptoms. Viral testing after the 10th day picks up these shed, dead virus particles causing a “false positive.”
Symptom-based protocol means the person must remain in special precautions until at least 10 days have passed from their positive test AND their symptoms (fever and cough) are improving. Time-based protocol is for individuals who never experienced any symptoms. They remain in special precautions until 10 days have passed since their initial positive test.
CDC does not say that one strategy is better than any other. The medical center will be conducting antibody testing for past infection by blood draw to clear Veterans and employees from special precautions who meet the guidelines.
Visitation, Packages for CLC Veterans
Visitation with specific, updated precautions related to COVID-19 may now be scheduled by family members of Veterans in the Community Living Centers through their social worker or nurse manager, weather permitting. Bedford VAMC is also providing a package drop off service weekdays from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. for family members to reduce shipping costs of care packages and desired items.
Resident patients of the CLCs continue to “recover,” having been designated as "clinically resolved" from their previous COVID-19 positive diagnosis. Twenty-nine recovered patients have been transferred to designated recovery care units within the Edith Nourse Rogers Memorial Veterans Hospital here and another four have been discharged home.
Report COVID testing
Testing for COVID remains a critical part of the public health response to the pandemic. Please help spread the word to Veterans that if they have received COVID testing provided by a non-VA entity, they should contact their VA healthcare provider so the data can be captured in their medical record. Knowing where the virus is and is not located helps prevent and limit the spread of COVID-19 infections that affects our Veterans and employees, as well as the community at large.
COVID-19 data as of today is 34 inpatient Veterans (-22 from last report), six (-12) outpatient Veterans and eight employees (98 have returned to work) currently positive.
There have been 28 (+6) total deaths related to COVID-19 at Bedford VAMC plus 12 (+/-0) total COVID-related deaths of Bedford patients at other medical locations, eight total outpatient Veteran deaths and one employee death. This brings the total number of deaths to 49.
Mental Health Awareness
The Employee Assistance Program and Bedford VA chaplains remain available to support Veteran residents and staff during this difficult time. In the works is a “sacred space,” a permanent location on the grounds accessible to both staff and family members where they can visit and grieve for those they have lost during the pandemic.
Outpatient Veterans are encouraged to communicate their concerns and needs – for work, mental and physical health, home life, etc. Remain hopeful, and if you're having a tough time, call the 24-hour Veterans Crisis Line at 1-800-273-8255; press 1 for Veterans.
Bedford VAMC’s operating status is continually updated at https://www.bedford.va.gov/emergency/index.asp. For more information about the Coronavirus, visit https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html.