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McGuire VA Medical Center workers express COVID-19 concerns

Posted at 7:13 AM, Mar 18, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-18 08:59:56-04

RICHMOND, Va. -- Some concerned McGuire VA Medical Center employees have expressed concerns about their safety amid the COVID-19 spread.

They’re frustrated and feel like their concerns are not being addressed, so they reached out to CBS 6 Problem Solvers wanting to know if VA officials could implement additional Coronavirus safety measures.

Unwilling to speak on camera for fear of losing their jobs, some VA medical workers still wanted to be heard. They said as medical workers, they expect to be on the front lines, but feel more safety precautions can be taken.

Workers expressed a range of concerns in the midst of this Coronavirus pandemic, from the number of people in their facility, to how patients are screened, their need for personal protective equipment, and safety concerns for pregnant employees.

"Non essential appointments are still coming in," one hospital worker told the CBS 6 Problem Solvers. "There are also employees sharing offices of six to eight or more in an office space. The screening forms are not adequate and no temperatures are being checked when patients come in. There's only a questionnaire form which gives patients a hall pass to come into the hospital."

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After a number of staff members asked what they should do if exposed to COVID-19, an email went out regarding asymptomatic personnel after exposure.

CBS 6 News obtained a copy of that email.

It directed staffers at the VA, per CDC guidelines, to continue working until symptoms develop.

The email also explained workers should report temperatures and absence of symptoms each day to their supervisor prior to starting work.

VA spokesperson David Hodge told CBS 6 Problem Solvers there has been zero positive cases of Coronavirus at the facility. Hodge said they’ve relied on employees to voluntarily assist with screenings around the clock.

As for concerns employees have about not being given adequate protective equipment, Hodge said those who conduct screenings or are involved in direct patient care have been given the appropriate personal protective equipment as outlined by the CDC OR VA protocol.

The VA has also limited visitation to only one essential family member or caregiver at a time for all patients. No visitors are allowed in the living center nursing homes or spinal cord injury center. VA officials said they have already cut back on non essential surgeries.

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“The Central Virginia VA Health Care System takes the safety of Veterans, family members and employees very seriously. We ensure we always follow the latest guidelines prescribed by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the Dept. of Veterans Affairs,” Hodge said.

He added that while the CDC still considers COVID-19 to be a low threat to the general American public, they are paying special attention to it. As part of that process, everyone who enters their campuses will be screened.

Hodge said to keep staff updated, facility leadership regularly sends updates discussing the latest information regarding Coronavirus and its impact in Central Virginia.

Hodge said veterans and staff are encouraged to take everyday preventive actions to avoid being exposed to the virus.