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Heard on All Things Considered

Detroit VA Medical Center’s COVID-19 Response

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Image credit: John D. Dingell VA Medical Center

The Director of the John D. Dingell VA Medical Center discusses the steps the hospital is taking to protect its staff and care for its patients amid the coronavirus pandemic.

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Many hospitals in southeastern Michigan have seen a dramatic change in the way they operate during the coronavirus pandemic.

Detroit’s John D. Dingell VA Medical Center has adapted to handle the crisis, though early on, the medical center had to transfer some patients to the VA facility in Ann Arbor and Detroit nurse Divina Accad was one of the first health care professionals to die of the disease in Metro Detroit.

Dr. Pamela Reeves, Director of the John D. Dingell VA Medical CenterJohn D. Dingell VA Medical Center
John D. Dingell VA Medical Center

Dr. Pamela Reeves, Director of the John D. Dingell VA Medical Center

VA Medical Center Director Doctor Pamela Reeves says that since then, the situation at the hospital has improved. ”I think things are progressing nicely,” says Reeves. “We never did get really overwhelmed in the same way that Detroit area hospitals did… We have been at about 60% capacity with our expanded capacity that we put in place to take care of the surge for the majority of the time.”

According to Reeves, as of April 24, the hospital had evaluated 346 patients who were under investigation of having COVID-19. Of those, 200 were admitted and about 173 actually had the virus.

Adapting to Pandemic Protocols

In order to keep staff and patients safe, the hospital implemented protective measures including screening anyone who entered the medical center and reducing the number of entrances to the facility. The medical center also suspended elective surgeries and provided telehealth services for primary care and mental health appointments.

Some area hospitals reported facing challenges acquiring personal protective equipment (PPE) necessary to safely treat patients, but Reeves says the John D. Dingell Medical VA medical center has not seen shortages of PPE. ”We haven’t gotten things as rapidly as we would like to get them,” says Reeves, “But the supply chain is still working.” She said the medical center also received donations of supplies from businesses and community organizations. 

Reeves says that this crisis has better prepared the medical center for another outbreak or pandemic: “I think we are in a better place in terms of trying to figure out our isolation rooms and negative pressure rooms and where we would place patients if we had a surge. So I don’t think we would do [things] that differently. But having gone through that exercise, this I think we’d be more ready for [another pandemic].”

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Russ McNamara, Host, All Things Considered

Russ McNamara is the host of All Things Considered for 101.9 WDET, presenting local news to the station’s loyal listeners. While working as an audio engineer for ABC Sports, he was sprayed with champagne as the Detroit Pistons celebrated their championship in 2004.

russmcnamara@wdet.org

This post is a part of Coronavirus in Michigan.

101.9 WDET, Detroit’s NPR Station, is committed to providing accurate, up-to-date information on coronavirus, and it's related illness COVID-19, in Michigan. 

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