The Manchester and White River Juction VA Medical Centers have posted new guidelines for patients and other visitors in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In Manchester, the VA’s Incident Command Center was activated on March 2 in response to COVID-19.

The initial response included limited medical center access entry points, instituting screening and restricting visitors in our Community Living Center (nursing home).

Additional steps to limit further spread of the virus are ongoing and taken in collaboration with the medical center workforce as well as across local, state and national agencies to brace for a surge in health care needs as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a press release on Sunday, Kevin Forrest, interim director of the Manchester VA Medical Center, said, “The situation is evolving, and we are changing the way we do business to prevent the spread of the virus and support wellness for all. Manchester VA is now taking steps to provide safe and high-quality care based on an anticipated worst-case scenario. One important step requires community assistance as we ask that if you are not a medical center employee or veteran with a scheduled appointment, you stay home. This action is being taken out of necessity and not an abundance of caution, and we are asking for your help.”

Actions being taken and what to expect:

If you have traveled in the past month, have fever and cough symptoms, or have had contact with anyone confirmed positive for COVID-19, please call the Call Center at 800-892-8384 ext. 3199 BEFORE coming to Urgent Care.

Anyone reporting to the medical center should anticipate seeing temporary structures at the front of our facility. These structures will support enhanced screening for all who wish to enter the hospital. This action is being taken to avoid unnecessary exposure for patients and staff.

Access to the medical center is restricted to allow only veterans with an appointment and/or essential/safety clinical needs as well as essential staff.

Crisis Line: If you are a veteran in crisis or concerned about one you can connect with the Veterans Crisis Line to reach caring, qualified responders with the Department of Veterans Affairs. Many of them are veterans themselves. Call (800) 273-8255 and Press 1; text 838255 or chat online. There is support for deaf and hard of hearing.

Pharmacy: Veterans plan to order your prescriptions online where possible. To order your prescriptions only, go to My HealtheVet, where you can register to manage your VA prescription refills. If you need assistance getting established on My HealtheVet, contact the administrator at: (800) 892-8384, ext. 2291.

Elective procedures scheduled over the next 30 days are postponed and patients with appointments are being contacted.

Wherever possible, routine care and group care will be conducted via virtual visits (telemedicine). Any changes to appointments will be communicated to the veteran prior to their scheduled activity.

The Community Living Center is operating under further restricted access. For example, all staff screening includes temperature assessment, food service workers will deliver meals outside the closed CLC unit where essential staff will collect meals and deliver them directly to the veterans. Any access to the CLC other than essential staff will be assessed on a case-by-case basis.

Veterans are asked to contact the Manchester VA Call Center at (800) 892-8384, ext. 3199 with health questions. Veterans are asked for patience as we are expecting longer response times.

Manchester VA does not have an emergency room. If you are experiencing a medical emergency contact your local ER for instructions or call 911.

This situation continues to evolve. Veterans can expect change when they visit the medical center, and should call before they come at (800) 892-8384, ext. 3199.

Visitors to the White River Junction Veterans Affairs (VA) Medical Center will notice several changes on campus as the facility intensifies its COVID-19 response efforts.

Beginning March 17, all individuals arriving on campus will be screened in their vehicles. Visitors to the Community Based Outpatient Clinics in Bennington and Rutland, Vt., will also be screened prior to exiting their vehicle.

Staff have been advised to enter campus using the entrance from the VA Cutoff Road to reduce the flow of traffic on Veterans Drive and will be screened at the rear entrance of the Birches building.

The White River Junction VA Medical Center would like to express their appreciation to the Lebanon Recreation Department for generously lending their supply of traffic cones to help safely direct traffic.

Visitation restrictions have been implemented and include an age restriction. The health-care system requests that visitors and anyone under the age of 18 to remain off campus until further notice. This is to reduce the risk of unintentional exposure to those seeking medical care.

Navigation through the medical center may be more difficult due to some temporary walls. Staff are available and happy to assist.

Brett Rusch, executive director of the medical center, said Monday evening: “We would like to thank our staff, Veterans and loved ones for their flexibility and understanding as we continue to make adjustments to our operational status. We take your health and well-being very seriously.”

White River Junction VA Healthcare System also encourages anyone with an appointment to call in advance and inquire about telehealth opportunities and VA Video Connect. This will provide an avenue of care without the risk of exposure.

Call (802) 295-9363 ext. 2111 to hear the latest updates on their coronavirus safety measures.

The VA reminds veterans of simple steps they can take to stay healthy and help others do the same.

What you can do:

• Wash your hands and keep them away from your face.

• Follow CDC guidance to plan and prepare at home.

• If you are not an employee or veteran with a scheduled appointment, stay home.

If you have a cough, shortness of breath, or fever, you should stay home and contact your health-care team. Call the Manchester VA at (800) 892-8384, ext. 3199; call the White River Junction VA at (802) 295-9363.

If your symptoms worsen, call your local Emergency Room for guidance or dial 911.

If you have an appointment, arrive early in anticipation of screening.

While on campus and in everyday activity practice social distancing — keep your distance from others and do not hug or shake hands.

For more information about the coronavirus, go to cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html.

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