Providence VA Medical Center in RI suspends visitation over omicron concerns
PROVIDENCE, R.I. (Tribune News Service) — The Providence VA Medical Center is no longer allowing visitors in response to the rapid spread of the highly infectious omicron variant of coronavirus.
Dr. Larry Connell, director of the Veterans Administration Providence Health Care System, said the hospital is allowing visitors to see their loved ones if they are in end-of-life care. The latest guidance has been in effect for the last two weeks, at the onset of the omicron variant.
Five of the hospital's patients have tested positive for COVID. All staff have received at least two shots of vaccine, a hospital spokesman said Monday.
The veterans hospital has not been plagued by the staffing shortages that have challenged other hospitals in Rhode Island.
"What's unique about the VA in New England is that we have eight hospitals," Connell said. "If we need to, we can reach out to our sister facilities. We can borrow a few nurses from New Hampshire, for example. The VA has the ability to reach out to hospitals down South ... and throughout the nation.
"The whole nation is having trouble with staffing," he said. "One of the big problems is they are offering incentives to come to other hospitals. They are competing with each other. We haven't had that experience yet."
The Providence VA Medical Center has a new eight-bed intensive-care unit. Currently, only two of the beds are occupied. The ICU has two negative pressure rooms designed to prevent contagious viruses like COVID from dispersing outside the room.
Visits to the VA's outpatient clinics are down, largely because of the holidays, but Connell expects those numbers to rise in January.
"We're OK for now," Connell said. "We have a little bit of capacity. I can handle a few more ICU patients. I suspect this is the calm before the storm."
RI Veterans Home in Bristol visitor policy
Visitors are still permitted at the Rhode Island Veterans Home in Bristol, according to Meghan Connelly, spokeswoman for the R.I. Office of Veterans Services.
"We've had full visitation for almost the entire year," she said.
Visitors do have to go through a screening process that includes having one's temperature taken. Masks are required. The facility also offers rapid testing on site, but it is not required.
Connelly said the home, which has 127 residents, hasn't had a resident test positive since February.
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