Rising COVID-19 cases force Salisbury VA to curtail non-emergency procedures, activate surge plan

Published 2:09 pm Thursday, January 13, 2022

SALISBURY — The Salisbury VA says a rising number of COVID-19 positives among veterans and staff will force it to curtail non-emergency procedures and activate a plan to handle more acute care patients.

The rise in positive staff members, in particular, has made it difficult to provide all services, a news release said. Veterans Affairs data show 139 Salisbury VA employees have active cases of COVID-19. Data show 753 active veteran cases. An additional 26 people are veterans and employees of the Salisbury VA.

“This latest variant certainly has put a strain on resources, particularly when it comes to available staff,” Chief of Staff Dr. Randall Gehle said in a Thursday news release. “We’ve dealt with a high patient census before and have experience implementing a surge plan, but as we shift resources to acute care, it does affect other services.”

Veterans may be asked to switch in-person appointments to virtual or telephone ones, a news release said.

The Salisbury VA has facilities in Charlotte and Kernersville in addition to Rowan County. Services affected by the just-announced changes reflect that. Affected services are as follows:

• Elective operating room cases and gastroenterology procedures.

• Cardiac catheterization lab procedures at the Kernersville VA Health Care Center.

• Outpatient elective procedures that require pre-procedure testing will be canceled and rescheduled.

• Routine labs will be paused.

• Primary care at the Charlotte Community-Based Outpatient Clinic will convert all appointments to virtual.

In addition to stopping a number of procedures, the Salisbury VA will activate a surge plan to handle an increased number of patients. The plan will add acute care bed capacity, a news release said.

“It is a challenging time, for sure,” said Salisbury VA Director Joseph Vaughn. “We’ve dealt with surges like this before. We have a plan in place and I trust that our staff will rise to the challenge and deliver the care our Veterans have come to expect.”