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Warner, Kaine urge VA medical centers to protect veterans, health providers amid COVID-19 outbreak

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U.S. Sens. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine urged four VA medical centers to expend every effort to ensure that veterans and the health providers who care for them are safe amid the novel coronavirus outbreak.

In letters to the Hunter Holmes McGuire VA Medical Center, the Salem VA Medical Center, the Hampton VA Medical Center, and the Washington DC VA Medical Center, the senators asked for more information on each facility’s efforts to address the spread of COVID-19 while ensuring the health of VA employees.

“Many of Virginia’s veterans are particularly susceptible to COVID-19 due to age and underlying health conditions,” wrote the senators, who have heard from veterans and VA employees concerned about the effect of the COVID-19 outbreak on VA medical centers. “As the Commonwealth of Virginia and the federal government respond to the spread of COVID-19 in the United States and around the world, we urge the VA to expend every effort to ensure that veterans will be appropriately cared for during the outbreak of this deadly disease, and to seek further assistance when required.”

They continued, “As the VA works to care for our nation’s veterans with COVID-19 and to reduce the spread of this disease, the VA must also prioritize the protection of its employees – the health care providers, administrators, support staff, and others – who are on the frontlines in the battle against COVID-19, and who risk daily exposure to the virus.”

In their letters, the senators urged each medical center to allow individuals to telework whenever possible, as in the case of hospital administrators who may be able to perform their duties remotely. They also urged the facilities to make every effort to provide employees with appropriate personal protective equipment in order to safely support patients and help prevent healthcare workers from getting sick.

They also requested that the hospitals provide more information on their efforts to reduce the transmission of COVID-19.

Specifically, they asked for details on each facility’s ability to test patients and staff for COVID-19; whether any steps were being taken to train and protect medical staff from the virus; whether each medical center is allowing employees to telework when possible; whether facilities believe they can meet the growing demands during this crisis; and whether any steps have been taken to ensure that each facility can handle a surge of patients with possible or confirmed COVID-19 patients.