Internal communications show how Hampton VAMC is battling challenges, shortages to deal with COVID


HAMPTON, Va. (WAVY) — Through emails, town halls and other internal messaging, 10 On Your Side has been able to put together a picture of how the staff members at the Hampton VA Medical Center are getting through the pandemic.

The tone of Executive Director David Collins has ranged from supportive, to informative, to infuriated.

According to data released Monday afternoon on a VA website, Hampton has a total of 28 COVID cases, including 18 inpatients and 10 outpatients.

Collins held a virtual town all last week, and people wanted to know if and when everyone at the hospital would be wearing masks.

“Given the availability of the supply system, it is unlikely we would ever be able to go to that,” Collins said.

Medical center spokesman John Rogers says management is continually monitoring the status of personal protective equipment (PPE) to ensure a robust supply chain.

Rogers says the medical center is following all CDC guidelines for the use of surgical masks or N95 respirators and protective equipment, is equipped with essential items and supplies to handle an influx of coronavirus cases, and is following CDC and Virginia Department of Health guidelines for testing and reporting.

Internal emails from Collins from last month describe how staff were hoarding PPE, playing with it and then posting pictures on social media. Collins described them as “horrible examples” and “totally unacceptable.”

Collins also gave guidance on how staff can re-use masks if they are not contaminated.

“If they are still clean we will ask you to turn them in,” Collins said. “We will ultra-sonically sanitize them and hold them if we have to reissue them if we run out and we have to provide PPE.”

In a March 28 message, Collins praised his employees for getting drive-thru testing and pharmacy up and running, calling it a great service to the tens of thousands of local veterans who rely on the Hampton V-A for care. It is available weekdays from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. A spokesman said it has greatly reduced traffic inside the hospital and decreased unnecessary exposure to veterans and staff.

Collins mentioned the VAMC’s first staff member testing positive in a March 26 email. The person worked in the domiciliary. He instructed staff in that department to wear masks at all times, and both patients and staff would have body temperatures taken daily.

Collins also directed providers to try to postpone routine lab work that doesn’t threaten the health of the patient. However labs for chemo and warfarin therapy, and those for patients with suppressed immune systems and renal transplants will continue.

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