The last couple of months have thrown the nation into uncharted territories; unemployment has skyrocketed due to the outbreak of the Coronavirus, and hospitals have struggled to keep up with the number of rising cases being confirmed daily. Each state has handled and suffered different levels of medical supply shortages, be it something as basic as masks, or as complicated as ventilators. This crisis has also affected Veteran’s Affairs (VA) hospitals, making it more difficult for veteran’s to be adequately tested and subsequently treated for COVID-19.
The head physician in charge of the VA hospital administration acknowledged this crippling shortage: “I had 5 million masks incoming that disappeared,” said Richard Stone, executive in charge of the sprawling Veterans Health Administration. There has been a major depletion of the VA’s medical resources due to President Trump’s choice to implement the Defense Production Act. This action allowed FEMA to request supplies that forced around 170 VA medical centers to empty their shelves of medical equipment.
According to a report published by The Washington Post, “The American Federation of Government Employees, which represents hundreds of thousands of VA workers, says nurses are still struggling and are often given surgical masks and face shields instead of the N95 respirators that are more effective at limiting contagion.” Complaints of this massive shortage have been filed and are being compensated, but perhaps not fast enough. The Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration, also known as MIOSHA, usually receives around 200 to 230 complaints a month. But in March, it got 930 complaints and approximately 85% were COVID-19 related.
The number of VA patients that have tested positive reached 6,300 within the last month, with 400 deaths. While there is a rise in employing nurses for VA hospitals, a struggle to maintain proper supplies for their own hospitals remains prevalent, and they are seeing a return in supplies. On a positive note, since mid-April, the health system has given its support to veterans’ homes. Although they are not run by the federal government, VA gives still provides them with financial assistance, and has now offered to treat dozens of their patients in its hospitals.