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VA Medical Center Hiring; Expects Outbreaks Looking Ahead
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G.V. Sonny Montgomery VA Medical Center
Courtesy: VA Medical Center

VA Medical Center Hiring Nurses; Expects Coronavirus Outbreaks Looking Ahead, MPB's Desare Frazier reports.

Twenty-eight veterans and 21 employees at the Sonny Montgomery VA Medical Center in Jackson have tested positive for the coronavirus so far. According to Medical Director, David Walker, six veterans are hospitalized--two at the VA medical Center in Jackson and four in community hospitals. He says 21 veterans are recovering at home. Walker says he’s a little surprised by the low number of cases overall.

“We’ve been fortunate that even with the predicted surge we haven’t had the volume of patients anticipated based upon the models. With that, we’re cautiously optimistic,” said Walker.

Walker says those who are at home sick, they call to make sure they’re okay. He says often during the second week, people may feel worse, but they aren’t sick enough to be in the hospital.

Walker says there is one patient in a hospice program with serious health complications who also tested positive for Covid 19. He says of the 21 employees who tested positive, 10 are back at work, 11 are recovering at home. Walker says they also have five employees who are waiting for test results. He says they follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines for returning staff--workers have to wait three days after they’ve recovered to return to work.

“You’re still screened everyday when you come into work. And so if you have any symptoms you would have your temperature taken and sent home. These are folks who are not showing any symptoms at all. And they would still be using protective gear if their job required it,” said Walker.

The medical director says there are 41,000 veterans in the state’s VA medical system. Walker says ahead of the predicted surge they doubled capacity in their intensive care unit, by opening up unused space for additional beds and erecting a 20-bed tent on hospital grounds.

The VA medical center also operates a nursing home. Walker says all the residents have tested negative for Covid 19 and they are in the midst of testing staff. He says, even though the number of coronavirus cases are lower than expected, Walker says there is a continuing need for nurses.

Eva Santoy is Associate Director of Patient Care Services. She says they’ve moved some of the center’s 150 administrative nurses back to floors to provide direct patient care. Patients recovering from the coronavirus need rehabilitation. Santoyo says they are in the midst of hiring nurses for an eight bed unit where they’ll provide physical therapy. She says it’ll take 24 nurses to meet the need for round-the-clock care. Santoyo says they’re also looking to hire nurse assistants and physical therapy aids right away.

“Taking care of Covid patients, once they start getting better, they’re extremely weak, some need walkers or wheelchairs to get around. Some have to learn how to reuse their arms. Some will need therapy at home. Based upon the number of cases the VA has predicted, we need eight rehabilitation beds and they have to be staffed 24/7,” said Santoyo.

Additionally Santoyo says based upon the number of cases the VA has predicted, they will need eight rehabilitation beds that have to be staffed 24 hours per day.

Sonny Montgomery Medical Director David Walker says currently they have enough tests and personal protective equipment. His concern looking ahead he says, is future outbreaks, which he expects to occur.

“You’re going to have individuals people who aren’t immune, they haven’t had the virus, and so the continued need for social distancing, for wearing a mask, the risk of outbreaks and being able to identify those and quickly isolate folks so it doesn’t spread, that’s going to be the biggest concern,” said Walker. These are issues he says he and his staff are in the midst of developing plans to manage.

Anyone interested in nursing positions is asked to forward resumes to Eva Santoyo at: eva.santoyo@va.gov

VA Field Hospital Erected on Grounds, Jackson
Courtesy: VA Medical Center