Fourth Mission: Columbia VA provides needed support to veterans’ homes in Southeast
COLUMBIA, SC – The Coronavirus pandemic has been unrelenting, creating overwhelming challenges for America’s health care systems, nursing homes, and medical facilities. As number of cases continue rise across the state of South Carolina, and in the Southeast, the Columbia VA Health Care System (HCS) has been focused on providing safe high-quality care for its veterans, but also, when possible, the communities it serves.
While VA’s primary mission is to help veterans, in times of national emergency, the VA can invoke its “Fourth Mission” to support national, state, and local government agencies and organizations. As part of its Fourth Mission, the Columbia VA has stepped up to provide needed assistance and support across the Southeast including answering the call for help from seven state-run veterans’ homes in South Carolina and Alabama that were struggling to obtain the timely results they needed from inundated community labs.
“We are more than happy to support our veterans in state veterans’ homes in South Carolina and Alabama,” said David Omura, director and chief executive officer of the Columbia VA HCS. “When there are veterans in need of help, the Columbia VA stands ready to do whatever it can to take care of them regardless of the state they reside, just as we did in this case.”
With state requirements to conduct mandatory COVID-19 testing, the task seemed impossible for many state veterans’ homes as they tried to keep a high-risk population of our nation’s heroes safe. Nursing home residents are predominantly older, and veterans, in particular, have multiple complex health conditions, making them particularly susceptible to Coronavirus.
To date, the Columbia VA has tested 100 percent of each veterans’ nursing homes’ residents and staff, some multiple times. This has amounted to performing more than 3,900 COVID-19 tests as well as providing critically needed PPE and collection kits to these sites, which includes:
30,000 surgical masks 5,000 face shields
300 N95 masks 14,100 isolation gowns
117,000 gloves 4,000 collection kits
In March, the Columbia VA was selected as one of the first VA facilities to be approved for high volume COVID-19 testing using its Roche Analyzer. Since April, the facility has performed more than 17,000 COVID-19 tests for VA facilities in Ala., Ga, S.C. as well as for the seven state veterans’ nursing homes. The Columbia VA has also offered assistance to other VA facilities in Fla., N.C, and Va. that may need additional testing support.
Remarkably, the average turnaround time for the Columbia VA is approximately 1.14 days compared to 5–10 days in the community. The true benefit of being able to run these tests in house is “same-day test results.” Faster results allow providers to make timely treatment decisions for COVID-positive patients and reduce PPE usage.
“We are fortunate to have some of the best technology available to test for COVID-19 at the Columbia VA,” said Dr. Jailan Osman, the chief of the Pathology and Laboratory Service at the Columbia VA HCS. “We are determined to win this battle against COVID, and I am confident that we will with the dedication and persistence of our lab and VA personnel.”
The Columbia VA is one of the only VA labs to have the necessary equipment to test and treat patients at all stages of Coronavirus from diagnosis to treatment. Presently, the Columbia VA has three different molecular diagnostic tests, serology/antibody tests to assess for acquired immunity, and a convalescent plasma therapy program to treat patients who exhibit severe or life-threatening COVID-19 infections.
About the Columbia VA:
The Columbia VA Health Care System comprises the Wm. Jennings Bryan Dorn VA Medical Center and seven community-based outpatient clinics located throughout South Carolina in in Anderson, Florence, Greenville, Orangeburg, Rock Hill, Spartanburg and Sumter; serving 36 of 46 counties on South Carolina. The Columbia VA is a level 1C teaching hospital, providing a full range of patient care services, with state-of-the-art technology, education, and research. Comprehensive health care is provided through primary care, tertiary care and long-term care in areas of medicine, surgery, psychiatry, physical medicine and rehabilitation.