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VA New England Healthcare System


VA New England Supports VA ‘Fourth Mission’ COVID-19 Response

April 22, 2020

BEDFORD, Mass. – VA New England Healthcare System continues to support the Department of Veterans Affairs’ “Fourth Mission” in helping all Americans during the COVID-19 outbreak.

“VA New England Healthcare System is committed to helping our region respond to the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Ryan Lilly, VA New England’s network director. “Caring for Veterans is our first mission, but across New England, we are also helping in the local community.  VA is in this fight not only to serve Veterans in New England with specialized care in combatting COVID-19; we’re also proud to help the states in our region with responding to the outbreak of the virus.”

VA traditionally provides Veterans’ healthcare, benefits and memorial affairs. In times of national crisis, such as the current Coronavirus pandemic, VA can also provide services to the nation based on requests from states. This is known as VA’s Fourth Mission.

VA New England is caring for non-Veteran patients for COVID-19 across the region, pursuant to requests from FEMA and as part of the emergency response effort. This support was approved after VA determined care to Veterans would not be negatively impacted.  This support includes caring for people in nursing homes who are especially vulnerable to COVID-19 due to age or pre-existing medical conditions.

VA Boston Healthcare System has cared for 32 Veterans from the Soldiers’ Home in Chelsea, a state Veterans’ residential and long-term care facility. VA New England’s Edith Nourse Rogers Memorial Veterans Hospital in Bedford, Mass., has cared for 12 Veterans from the Chelsea state facility.

The VA team at Bedford VA completed work on a newly converted 22-bed ward specifically for patients with a positive COVID-19 diagnosis, accelerating the conversion after receiving the intake request from Massachusetts officials.

“Converting one of our nursing home wards into a COVID-19 nursing home ward was part of our surge plan,” said Kelley Saindon, Bedford VAMC deputy nurse executive. “Our top priority here at Bedford is the preparedness of our facilities to meet the needs of Veterans and their families.”

In addition, the VA Providence Healthcare System has cared for seven community nursing home patients in Rhode Island. Six of the seven patients were transferred back to the community nursing home; the remaining patient died.

On April 4, 12 VA nurses from the VA Manchester Healthcare System in New Hampshire were deployed to care for patients in two private nursing homes in Massachusetts: the Hunt Nursing Home in Danvers, and the Charlwell Nursing Home in Norwood.

“I am proud to have been a part of the response team, said Shauna Dalleva, a registered nurse who was on the deployment. “The deployment allowed us an opportunity to assist our non-VA colleagues who were in the midst of a dire crisis, and most importantly to provide care and comfort to the resident patients during such an uncertain time.” 

VA New England is also reaching people where they live, by getting resources to where people need them. In New Haven, Conn., three VA clinicians from the West Haven campus of the VA Connecticut Healthcare System were recently placed on assignment to provide clinical support for disaster operations related to the COVID-19 homeless population.

States that require assistance from VA should request it through their local Department of Health and Human Services Regional Emergency Coordinator — part of FEMA’s National Response Coordination Center. Counties, cities and other municipalities should route all requests for federal support through their respective states.

VA continues to encourage Veterans, staff members and their families to take precautions to protect against respiratory illnesses caused by COVID-19, the flu and the common cold, and to follow the guidance of their local and state health care and emergency management officials.

The VA New England Healthcare System, VISN 1, is one of 18 Veterans Integrated Service Networks within the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs under the Veterans Health Administration.  VISN 1 has 11 medical centers, 45 Community-Based Outpatient Clinics, six community living centers and two domiciliary.