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Salisbury VA housing evacuated inpatient veterans

SALISBURY — As VA medical centers across the Southeast plan for Hurricane Florence, officials are working to make sure patients are kept safe.

For inpatient veterans at Hampton Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Hampton, Virginia, that meant transfers to facilities in neighboring states following a mandatory evacuation order issued by Gov. Ralph Northam.

Salisbury VA Medical Director Joseph Vaughn said the local hospital will accept 18 of these patients, including two from the intensive care unit and 15 resident patients coming to the hospital’s Community Living Center.

He said the hospital is in a good position for the sudden influx of new residents and patients, though staffing was initially a concern.

“For the CLC, we had the space but it really would have stressed is if we hadn’t gotten the Hampton staff to come with them,” he said. “We’re not really staffed to handle that many patients.”

Finding hotels to accept temporary staff members has been but one part of planning for VA officials.

“There’s a lot of staging going on,” said Vaughn. “The VA has a lot of mobile resources: pharmacies, clinics … All of those are getting staged.”

He said the hospital staff is prepared to meet the needs of evacuated veterans as they continue to come into the area. Officials are also evaluating resources such as diesel fuel, bottled water, medical supplies and food.

“We’re making sure we have enough food, not only for patients but if we have employees that need to weather over.”

Vaughn said the hospital has enough to “basically be self-sustaining” for two weeks, provided it does  not need to switch to bottled water.

All buildings that are used for patient care are on backup generators. Other buildings, such as administrative buildings, will have limited power.

Until the storm hits, the staff is working to make sure its special populations of veterans are prepared for the weather, with social workers reaching out to those who receive home-based care or use at-home medical devices or treatments.

Vaughn said administrators are also compiling and updating employee contact information. This was not just for work reasons, but also as a means of checking on the welfare of workers, he said.

“We’re looking out for our employees,” he said.



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