Decatur’s VA hospital has two suspected coronavirus cases

The Atlanta VA medical Center, located on Clairmont Road in Decatur, has seen two suspected cases of coronavirus and is taking steps to prepare for more. Bob Andres / bandres@ajc.com
The Atlanta VA medical Center, located on Clairmont Road in Decatur, has seen two suspected cases of coronavirus and is taking steps to prepare for more. Bob Andres / bandres@ajc.com

Editor’s note: This article has been updated to include comments from the VA.

The Veterans Affairs hospital in Decatur is reporting two suspected cases of COVID-19, according to emails to medical staff.

The patients tested initially positive Wednesday evening, and the tests are awaiting confirmation from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, according to emails that a hospital staffer shared with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on the condition of anonymity.

» COMPLETE COVERAGE: Coronavirus in Georgia

The emails also reveal how the hospital is handling coronavirus patients in its facilities and the challenges posed. According to the emails:

  • The patients have been moved to an intensive care unit to keep them isolated, which has caused the hospital to move patients who were there to other care units.
  • Medical staff who do not have a patient in the intensive unit are being counseled to stay out.
  • There is a possible national shortage of hospital surgical gowns because the supply chain from China has been disrupted. The staff has been instructed to conserve their use by, for example, not allowing interns to scrub into surgeries and limiting operations to two surgeons, unless patient safety is at stake.
  • In clinics, medical professionals are advised to cut down on patient visits by using tele-health meetings when possible.
  • The hospital leaders are considering whether scheduled surgeries that are not critical ought to be rescheduled for later.
  • The hospital may ask some patients to get treatment at private medical practices.

A statement from the VA late Friday said it is implementing new processes to control the disease and lower risks.

“These measures include multi-channel outreach to veterans and staff, clinical screening at VA health care facilities, as well as protective procedures for patients admitted to community living centers and spinal cord injury units.”

The hospital is pre-screening everyone who enters the campus with questions about symptoms, contact with known patients or travel. This may lengthen entry times, so patients are advised to allow for that when arriving for their appointments.

Individuals known to be at risk for a COVID-19 infection are immediately isolated to prevent potential spread to others, it said.

The statement added VA facilities are equipped with essential supplies to handle an influx of coronavirus cases.

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