Columbia VA to safely reintroduce health care services

Columbia VA to safely reintroduce health care services

Columbia, S.C. — The Columbia VA Health Care System is implementing a plan to safely expand health care services in all of their locations across the state. Today, the facility will begin this process by increasing most services by 25 percent of what was provided in early March when COVID first impacted the state. The increase in volume will occur while continuing to maintain the same high standards to which the community has become accustomed.

While primary care and mental health continued full operation through the maximizing of personalized virtual care options like telehealth, phone consults and wellness checks, certain care will resume through face to face encounters. As part of the facility’s Moving Forward plan, the Columbia VA will accommodate expanded face-to-face appointments, when clinically necessary, depending on the service.

The Columbia VA will continue to offer and prioritize appointments for many services through virtual modalities, which have been a valuable link to our veterans during this challenging time. The scheduling of in-person services and appointments will take into account the independent risk and urgency of each individual veteran. While limited face-to-face appointments may increase, there will continue to be no walk-in clinics available at this time. Only confirmed and scheduled patients will be allowed into the facility, unless they are experiencing a medical emergency.

“The safety of veterans and staff is the highest priority when we consider how we can provide health care services and procedures during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic,” said David Omura, medical center director and chief executive officer. “VA will consider guidance from various agencies including federal, state and local government as we gradually reintroduce additional health care services. As a high reliability organization, safety is always paramount and will continue to guide our decision making.”

Although the Columbia VA never stopped providing care to veterans, the facility will start to perform work that no longer falls only in the category of “emergent and urgent services.” Pre-COVID, the health care system typically provided 3,700 outpatient appointments per day; during the past week alone, the Columbia VA has already increased to more than 3,100 outpatient appointments per day.

The biggest areas of focus will be to increase outpatient services by 25 percent of our current volume at the seven VA community-based outpatient clinics around the state. Since these services have already been expanded at the main medical center in Columbia, S.C., greater attention will be given to increasing surgical procedures that can be performed in-house as opposed to sending veterans out into the community.

In accordance with CDC guidelines, and with current public health concerns, all aerosol generating procedures are still postponed as additional time is needed to address how such procedures can be performed safely. The Columbia VA will continue to follow and monitor CDC guidelines pertaining to these procedures, and will make any necessary modifications as guidelines change.

The Veterans Health Administration has developed a risk-based framework to prioritize non-urgent procedures, in addition to the urgent services currently being performed. Evaluation of factors such as patient health, staff safety and resource considerations will guide expansions and scheduling decisions. Additionally, rigorous safety measures will remain in place at the Columbia VA to include mandatory employee and veteran COVID-19 screening, universal and appropriate personal protective policy such as face coverings or face shields, physical distancing requirements, and frequent disinfection of high-touch services

As additional facilities reintroduce services across the country, the Columbia VA will also share best practices learned with other VA and private sector facilities so we can ensure we continue to provide veterans the best care they can receive in a safe environment.

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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 Anderson, Florence, Greenville, Orangeburg, Rock Hill, Spartanburg and Sumter; serving more than 85,000 veterans in 36 of 46 counties in 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.

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