Harry S. Truman Memorial Veterans’ Hospital
Thank You to All Our Veterans
Due to the coronavirus disease 2019 ― better known as COVID-19 ― the last few months have been extremely difficult for the entire world. Here at Harry S. Truman Memorial Veterans’ Hospital, we’ve had to make several changes to the way we deliver care to our patients. Although these changes were made to ensure the highest level of safety for our Veterans, their families and our employees, we also understand that not all of them have been easy. Therefore, as medical center director, and on behalf of my entire staff, I want to thank each one of our Veterans for your understanding and support during these trying times.
Since late January, we’ve had a team of specialists from every area of our hospital developing and making necessary changes to an overall plan meant to accomplish two goals. The first was to continue to provide outstanding care for our Veterans during a global pandemic. The second was to keep everyone safe. I am proud of my team’s efforts, their ability to think outside the box, and their continued vigilance. From the very beginning to now, Truman VA never stopped fulfilling VA’s mission of providing care for our nation’s heroes.
Although a great deal of my staff are Veterans themselves ― approximately one-third of Truman VA employees have served in the armed forces ― most if not all have family and friends who currently are or have served in the military. That means we have a vested interest in making sure the care we deliver, and the environment we deliver that care in, is the best.
While it’s true the pandemic caused us to change how we provide services for our Veterans, we have continued to deliver state-of-the-art care. Instead of almost all in-person clinic appointments, we transitioned to virtual visits using VA Video Connect. However, we also use common communication technology, such as multiple telephone calls, to ensure that our Veterans have everything they need, to include appropriate nutrition.
During the height of the pandemic, when social distancing practices were most crucial, my team found creative ways to reach out to our most vulnerable Veterans. One example that immediately comes to mind is the care packages developed by our Whole Health team. Each hand-delivered package included resources such as information and activities meant to reduce the stress created by social isolation. However, more than anything, the Whole Health team wanted our Veterans to know that they were thinking about them.
Although many of our non-emergent procedures were postponed during the most crucial phase of the pandemic, we continued to provide surgical services in all specialty areas. As a result of the fantastic cooperation from our Veterans, visitors and staff, we slowly are increasing the number of procedures we are performing, as well as face-to-face appointments. However, we are proceeding with caution.
The novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19 still is active in our communities. It hasn’t gone away. Therefore, we must continue to protect our most vulnerable Veterans. That means we will continue with our current policies of requiring everyone who enters one of our facilities to wear a mask. We also must continue to restrict inpatient visitations and limit our outpatient Veteran appointments to one adult caregiver ― and only if that caregiver is needed for transportation purposes or support.
My hope is that you understand why these policies are in place, and any inconvenience you may feel as a result is part of our efforts to protect you and everyone else that comes through our doors. Therefore, we ask that you bring a mask to all your VA appointments, and if you don’t have one, we will provide one for you while you are in one of our facilities.
While I agree that having to wear a mask can be annoying at times, it’s a simple way to protect those who are most vulnerable to COVID-19. We must do what we can to prevent the spread of this disease to those who are highly susceptible. Just like when we were in the military and we had “Battle Buddies,” we need to look out for each other.
Often, I tell my staff, “my mask protects you. Your mask protects me.” We want the best for all of you, our Veterans. We will continue to do everything in our power to protect you. I ask all those who have served in the armed forces of the United States of America for your continued understanding and support, and to protect each other by wearing a mask and practicing social distancing. Thank you.
Patricia Hall, PhD, FACHE, Medical Center Director of Truman VA and U.S. Army Veteran.