COVID-19 preparations underway at Minneapolis VA Medical Center

The VA Medical Center in Minneapolis.

Doctors at the Minneapolis VA Medical Center have treated nine people with confirmed COVID-19 cases and one of them is hospitalized.

The staff is preparing for a possible surge in cases. 

According to Director Patrick Kelly, several changes have been made to accommodate an influx of patients.

“We have consolidated wards, so we put all acute patients together and we sent some of our patients up to the St. Cloud VA where they have additional capacity for longer term care freeing up some more work space for us here so we can take care of the COVID-19 patients,” he told FOX 9 News.

By mid-April, the hospital expects to have 60 ICU rooms prepped and it has about 40 ventilators ready to go.

Kelly added the staff could get more ventilators if the need arises.

Surgeons training for surge

Non-essential procedures and tests have been put on hold.

75 percent of the outpatients are now using telemedicine and other ways to connect with staff.

“We are building capacity, so our surgeons are trained to do what is needed in a COVID crisis, our nurses, nurse anesthetists and others,” Kelly said. “We still have people coming into our emergency department, still have cancer patients that need care and patients that need dialysis, so we are open for business in taking care of those kinds of veterans.”

Like other medical facilities, Kelly is concerned about not having enough personal protective equipment for his staff when the surge hits.

“Our current situation is fine now, we have masks and gowns. There will be some issues down the road, what is not knowable is what the demand is and what additional supplies will be available here at the VA or nationally,” he said.

According to Kelly, an alternative care site is being sought out.

Kelly offers gratitude

The VA director said he knows these times are challenging for veterans and appreciates their willingness to accept all the changes happening within the system.

“I also want to thank our staff, healthcare workers everywhere, but especially our VA staff who come to work every day, a lot of our community stay at home, healthcare workers have to come to work so I have a lot of admiration and respect for them,” he concluded.