VA Sierra Nevada Health Care System
I wanted to give you an update on what we at VA Sierra Nevada Health Care System (VASNHCS) are doing to continue providing safe health care to you during the COVID-19 pandemic. To use a military communication acronym, the BLUF is VASNHCS remains committed to ensuring the continued care and safety of our staff and Veterans.
I know many are anxious to resume our former way of life, including accessing routine health care. VA is continuing to be cautiously optimistic as we plan for reopening. I do not expect to be able to reopen in the next month. Rest assured that when we do, it will be thoughtfully planned to address your health care needs. We have been actively planning for several weeks for the time that we welcome you back. Of course, in the interim, we continue to provide urgent, emergent, and inpatient care, as well as many outpatient appointments, most often through telehealth options.
As you may be aware from media reports, we have lost members of the VASNHCS team to COVID-19. While we do not provide any health information, the loss of our VA staff has been heartbreaking. We join their families and communities in mourning their passing. Two of the three staff members worked away from the main campus in administrative roles and had only telephone/e-mail contact with patients.
Today, everyone entering VA facilities – including all VA staff and visitors – are required to wear, at minimum, a face covering to ensure everyone’s safety. We are following the CDC guidance as well as the advice of experts across the world. You will see VA personnel, depending on the job they perform, wearing anything from a basic face covering to significantly more Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), such as a face-shield, gown, eye protection and gloves, when indicated.
Our Logistics team continues to work the supply chain to ensure we have adequate PPE inventory to meet current and anticipated demand. I want to assure you that we have what we need to protect you, our Veterans and our employees while conserving our supply of specialized PPE for those who will come into direct contact with COVID-19 patients. We have enough PPE to sustain our operations at current and projected usage rates.
We are being asked to practice physical distancing and limit social interaction for the good of Nevada and the nation. As Veterans, I believe you have a special role to play in this endeavor by setting the example. You can help lead your neighbors, help lead your families, and help lead your communities. Accept physical distancing as a requirement for the next number of weeks and let’s demonstrate the leadership and behavior necessary that will help us defeat this virus.
We continue to take proactive steps to provide the safest care to you while shifting resources and employing new strategies to limit the transmission of COVID-19. We have transitioned much of our routine and non-emergent healthcare delivery from in-person to VA's telehealth, telephone, MyHealtheVet and other virtual care options.
VASNHCS is taking these steps to ensure the health and safety of Veterans and staff. As part of this process, I have made the following operational and physical access changes to all our sites of care.
All staff and Veterans enter the hospital through the Main/Front entrance located on Kirman Avenue during normal business hours, 6am to 5pm, Monday through Friday.
A clinical screener is stationed at the Emergency Department (ED) entrance and will allow patients with urgent/emergent healthcare needs to enter through the ED. Only Veterans being seen in the ED will be permitted access to that entrance.
The Specialty Clinic entrance is closed until further notice. We will have staff available to assist with escorting patients safely to and from their specialty care appointments.
During off hours and weekends, access to the hospital will be available only through the ED entrance. All other hospital entrance doors are to remain locked.
Everyone who enters any VASNHCS facility will be pre-screened for the following conditions:
- New or worsening cough
- Shortness of breath
Veterans coming for appointments are often accompanied by someone. Attendants and escorts are generally not permitted, except as necessary for clinical care, major procedures, or support of a disability.
To protect patients and staff, inpatient visitation is not permitted (some exceptions for hospice or extenuating circumstances may be permitted). Nobody under the age of 18 will be permitted.
Non-Urgent Procedures, Surgery and Dental
We have canceled non-urgent elective surgeries and procedures. This includes dental and many departments throughout our healthcare system. We encourage the use of telephone and video connect appointments to the extent possible.
CBOCs, Eye Clinic, Dental Clinic Operations
On March 27 we predominately closed the CBOCs and Eye Clinic operations, with few exceptions. We converted in-person appointments to video/telephone appointments. Our Dental Clinic is providing urgent/emergent care only.
Stay home and phone
If you have symptoms of fever, cough, and shortness of breath, please call the VASNHCS Call Center at 888-838-6256 and select the option to speak to a nurse before visiting the facility (if you need an ambulance or need emergency room care, call 911 or go to your nearest ER). Tell them about your symptoms.
In addition to calling first, consider using VA's telehealth, MyHealtheVet and virtual care options. VA's telehealth providers can evaluate your symptoms and provide a diagnosis and comprehensive care, so you do not have to leave your home or office.
Dealing with Stress
It’s important during these times of physical distancing and limited social interaction that we remember to take care of ourselves and each other. Below are some resources for managing stress in times of turmoil.
Crisis Support Services of NV 1-800-273-8255 or text CARE to 839863
Veteran Crisis Line 1-800-273-8255, press 1; Text 838255;
confidential chat: www.veteranscrisisline.net
Additionally, you can access any of the resources directly below:
Nevada Unemployment Insurance
Federal Trade Commission Consumer Resources
IRS Tax Filing Information
Nevada Health Response
Nevada Health Link
I urge you to stay informed and up to date on the coronavirus by going to the following websites:
This continues to be a rapidly evolving situation in the United States and VASNHCS’s response adjusts as the situation warrants. Moving forward, we will tailor operations to community-specific circumstances with an eye on expanding services in alignment with federal, state and local guidance, while continuing with safety measures and recommendations outlined by the CDC to protect you.
I am proud of our staff members for rising to the challenges presented by this pandemic, and I am confident in our ability to continue to provide the level of healthcare you, our Veterans, have come to expect.
Thank you for your continued understanding and cooperation, and for the many cards and notes of support we have received. Stay safe and stay connected. You are in our hearts.
Lisa Howard, Director