Reintroducing in-person health care services

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VA Southern Nevada Healthcare System screeners checking all patients for required masks, temperature checks and health screening questions prior to entrance. (VA photograph)
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VA Southern Nevada Healthcare System is leading the way in reintroducing numerous health care services both nationally and locally as Nevada starts reopening after COVID-19 shutdowns.

The facility began expanding in-person services and procedures May 22. As one of the first sites nationally to return to in-person care, VASNHS is implementing a phased approach while ensuring a safe environment.

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

The Veterans Health Administration has developed a risk-based framework to prioritize non-urgent procedures, in addition to the urgent procedures currently being performed.  Evaluation of factors such as patient health, staff safety and resource considerations are guiding expansions and scheduling decisions. Rigorous safety measures including employee and Veteran COVID-19 screening, physical distancing and appropriate personal protective attire such as face coverings and frequent disinfection of high-touch services will remain in place at all VHA facilities.

“While we are offering more face-to-face appointments, VASNHS will continue to maximize personalized virtual care options like telehealth, phone consults and wellness checks, as we know these services have been a valuable link to our veterans during this challenging time,” Caron said. “As additional facilities reintroduce services across the country, we will participate in sharing best practices.”

Veterans coming to a VASNHS facility for an appointment should be aware of the following changes:

* Veterans should arrive at facility screening areas no earlier than 15 minutes prior to their scheduled appointment time. If veterans arrive sooner, they will be asked to wait in their vehicle.
* A no visitor policy is still in effect, meaning the additional visitors will not be permitted to accompany a veteran to an outpatient appointment unless they are directly assisting or caring for the veteran during his or her time in the clinic. Additionally, no children under 18 are currently allowed in VASNHS facilities.
* Anyone entering VASNHS facilities will be screened. Screening includes answering some health-related questions and taking each person’s temperature. If it is determined an individual is experiencing a health issue that needs to be addressed immediately, they will be escorted to another location for further evaluation.
* Staff, veterans and any approved visitors are required to wear a mask or other face covering while in our facilities.
* Veterans and approved visitors are asked to practice social distancing in all interactions within our facilities. Waiting areas have been reconfigured with fewer chairs spaced further apart to support social distancing practices in compliance with CDC guidelines.

Additionally, to manage the number of individuals within VASNHS’ facilities at any given time, walk-in services and direct scheduling will continue to be discontinued for the foreseeable future. 

Veterans who have questions about the expansion of services or have an urgent need for primary care or mental health services, should call 702-791-9024 (for primary care) or 702-791-9062 (for mental health) between 7:30 a.m. and 4 p.m. Monday-Friday.

For a medical emergency, veterans should always call 911 or report to the closest emergency room. Additionally, if a Veteran is in crisis outside regular business hours, he or she should visit the nearest emergency room or contact the Veterans Crisis Line at 1-800-273-TALK (Option 1) OR Text 838255; OR confidential chat: www.veteranscrisisline.net.

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