The Backup United States Healthcare System

While the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) continues to spread, most aggressively in the United States, the healthcare system is overwhelmed. Hospitals, especially in the Northeast, are overrun with patients and hospital beds are quickly filling up. However, there is a back-up healthcare system that is meant to be employed at a time like this.

The Veterans Affairs (VA) hospitals across the country have been implementing the department’s “Fourth Mission” plan, meant to increase the country’s response preparedness and help the local, state and national healthcare and safety systems.

“It’s the last resort for medical care in the United states if the entire medical system becomes overwhelmed,” said Waco VA Ambulatory Care Clinic Director Rima Bishara.

Nationally, the VA implemented an extensive COVID-19 response plan in late March. Not only have all VA’s moved appointments to phone or telehealth, but they have also designated care zones. One zone is to be used for COVID-related care, and the second for general care.

“To me, that’s just distancing you from the hospital even more than necessary,” said veteran Jim Hansen on telehealth appointments. “I think you need in-person appointments to accurately diagnose any problems.”

As of April 14, the VA system has administered close to 40,000 COVID-19 tests across the country and has reported more than 250 coronavirus-related deaths in the veteran community.

Unless the local hospitals have been overwhelmed and run out of beds and medical supplies, the VA will not be open for civilian care – only veteran care.

“VA has a world-class medical team doing incredible work on the frontlines of this fight,” said VA Secretary Robert Wilkie in a press statement. “We will continue to share best practices and lessons learned with other government agencies and the private health care system as appropriate so we can defeat COVID-19 as a nation.”