Washington DC VA Medical Center
Moving Forward Together
Tuesday, July 21, 2020Beginning July 6, 2020, the Washington DC Veterans Affairs Medical Center (DC VAMC) will launch Phase 1 of its Moving Forward Together framework to resume services which were put on hold in March due to the coronavirus. The phased framework and guidance to move forward is based on local, state and federal guidelines, and includes: masking of all staff, patients and visitors; 100% COVID-19 screening of all who enter VA facilities; adhering to physical distancing and capacity limitations; and environmental cleaning recommendations as outlined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
According to Medical Center Director Michael Heimall, safety remains a priority. "The safety of Veterans and staff is the highest priority when we consider how we provide health care services and perform procedures during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic."
We are moving forward to resume services in phases where Phase 1 includes offering face-to-face appointments at 25% of our pre-COVID-19 volume, as long as appropriate physical distancing can be maintained within clinic areas. Face-to-face appointments and procedures will be prioritized based on Veterans with the greatest need. Providers have started contacting Veterans directly to schedule in-person appointments. Telephone and virtual appointments are readily available by contacting the Call Center, 202-745-8000, option 2.
Veterans are encouraged to not put their health care needs on hold. "We are committed to providing Veterans with quality care, when they need it. Veterans are encouraged to communicate with their VA providers using secure messaging. Appointments are available. Veterans receiving and will continue to receive the care they deserve," said Heimall.
What to expect in Phase 1:
- Face-to-face appointments will be available to Veterans with the greatest need. Providers and their staff members will contact Veterans directly to schedule appointments. Veterans who feel they need a face-to-face appointment may contact their provider via secure messaging or the Nurse Advice Line, 202-745-8000, option 3.
- To minimize risks to staff and Veterans, telephone and virtual appointments are encouraged.
- Masks or face coverings are required of all who enter VA medical centers and facilities.
- Patients with respiratory symptoms such as fever, cough, or shortness of breath, should call the 24/7 Nurse Advice Line, 202-745-8000, option 3, prior to coming to the medical center. The nurse will advise you on the next step to take.
- Veterans will be asked to practice physical distancing while in the facility. This includes elevators, common spaces and clinic waiting areas.
- To minimize the number of people in the waiting rooms, Veterans are encouraged to arrive alone, if possible, and no more than 15 minutes prior to their appointment.
- The Respiratory Evaluation Center (REC) will remain operational in the new Research Building.
- The Southeast CBOC and Inpatient Psychiatric Services will remain closed.
- The Optical Shop will resume services for urgent eyewear needs on an appointment-only basis.
- Inpatient visitation restrictions will remain in effect.
- Veterans Canteen Services (VCS) will continue to offer “grab and go” items. No dining room seating will be available during Phase 1.
- All Veterans scheduled for invasive procedures, as defined by Infection Control, will receive COVID-19 testing no less than 24 hours prior to the procedure.
- Everyone who enters the facility will be screened for COVID-19. To speed up the process, VA has launched the Fast Pass pre-screening Tool:
The COVID-19 pre-screening tool may be accessed from a smartphone prior to entering the facility. The "Fast Pass" is easily accessed by texting the word "Screen" to 53079, or visiting the website: va.gov/covid19screen or scanning the QR code and answering the COVID-19 screening questions. Just show your “OK to Proceed” screen at the entrance.
Director Heimall cautions that the medical center’s resumption of services does not mean the pandemic has passed. or that it is safe for everyone to resume pre-pandemic behaviors.
"The virus is still out there and this is not a time to be complacent. We are moving forward in the safest way possible for everyone. We encourage staff and Veterans to remain safe, wear face coverings when in public, practice physical distancing and wash or sanitize your hands often," said Heimall.