VA institutes “no visitors” rule at its nursing homes nationwide
Ft. Meade, Hot Springs affected
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Effective immediately, the U.S. Veterans Administration has a “no visitor” rule at all 134 VA nursing homes, known as community living centers, and spinal cord injury and disorder centers nationwide. The move is an effort to protect residents and patients who are elderly or with weakened immune systems from exposure to the coronavirus strain known as COVID-19.
Teresa Forbes, public affairs officer for the VA’s Black Hills Healthcare System, confirms that the VA facilities at both Ft. Meade near Sturgis and at Hot Springs are affected by the order.
In a news release, Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert Wilkie said, “While the COVID-19 risk to average Americans remains low, these commonsense measures will help protect some of our most vulnerable patients,” adding, “VA will make every effort to minimize the impact of these policies on Veterans while putting patient safety first.”
Forbes said that family members of veterans who are near the end of their lives can be screened for coronavirus infection and, if cleared, receive an exception to the new rule.
According to the publication Military Times, all VA medical facilities began screening visitors for COVID-19 earlier this month, and many have started limiting the number of visitors. The new “no visitor” rule at nursing homes escalates the level of precaution taken to protect their most vulnerable patients.
Other measures taken at the community living centers on Tuesday include screening all nursing home staff daily and suspending new admissions. The VA did say, however, that resident transfers from other VA facilities will continue, once medical personnel have determined that the patient is not at risk from or likely to transmit the COVID-19 virus.