VA Prepares For Post-COVID Health Care As Demand For Vaccination Declines
Secretary McDonough said with declining demand for vaccines, the agency was preparing care for long-haul COVID patients.
The Department of Veterans Affairs is considering a post-COVID modernization phase to continue to develop and strengthen the agency’s healthcare infrastructure and core IT resources, Veterans Affairs Secretary Denis McDonough and Assistant Deputy Health Secretary for Clinical Services Dr Kameron Matthews briefed reporters at a press conference Monday.
Many of these projects aim to ensure a full vaccination of all veterans in the VA Network, as well as to treat the persistent symptoms experienced by “long-haul” COVID patients. The agency is currently exploring research projects to provide treatment and care for patients suffering from the sequelae of COVID, including through partnerships both within government and with academic institutions.
“We’re definitely looking to join the conversations across government, but also coordinate the various research initiatives across VA with our academic affiliates,” Matthews said. “But we shouldn’t just wait for research results. We really need to start treating these veterans as soon as possible. We are therefore going to develop, like other health systems, long interdisciplinary COVID clinics so that there can be several specialists who actually meet these veterans. We may not have all the answers and solutions in advance, but we include our research teams in the development of these clinics.. “
McDonough noted that in-person appointments at VA health facilities have increased significantly since the start of 2021, with veterans seeking treatment as a result of the widespread immunization.
“Our planned community care appointments in March were 440,000. In February, they were 338,000. For direct care encounters completed in the VA system in March, there were 8,405,000 people. In February, it was 6,885,000 people. So what you see in those two cases is a big demand, “McDonough said.” This is a pretty big increase in care in the community. That’s more than any month back to January 2020 before the pandemic. “
The agency has also reached a point of widespread vaccination where daily appointments for vaccines are declining, a testament to the scale of VA vaccination efforts undertaken since the start of the new year.
“In terms of overall demand for our vaccines, I think two weeks ago we were probably between 50,000 and 75,000 vaccinations per day. Right now we’re between 25,000 and 30,000 a day, ”McDonough said.
With VA having fulfilled many of its core responsibilities of providing emergency support during a public health crisis, the agency is now seeking to broadly modernize its health care facilities to improve care delivery nationwide. Much of this is encompassed in recent allocations outlined in President Biden’s proposed US Jobs Plan, which would provide VA $ 18 billion for infrastructure development. McDonough noted that these infrastructure investments are vital to ensuring that VA health centers can also accommodate new technology without increasing additional maintenance costs.
“Our average hospital is 59 years old. This is compared to an average hospital age in the private sector of 11 years. The investment in new modernized facilities is overtaken by the investment in the maintenance of aging facilities, ”McDonough said. This is why I think the president’s $ 18 billion investment in America’s jobs plan is so important. “