Coronavirus FAQs: What Veterans need to know - VA Puget Sound Health Care System
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VA Puget Sound Health Care System

 

Coronavirus FAQs: What Veterans need to know

Coronavirus

Coronavirus FAQs

Monday, March 23, 2020

Our call centers and some VA health facilities are currently experiencing very high numbers of calls. To help us address the most urgent needs first, we ask that you use our online tools and frequently asked questions for routine or non-urgent questions.


QUESTION: What's coronavirus COVID-19?

The CDC defines COVID-19 as a new type of coronavirus (or “novel coronavirus”). COVID-19 belongs to a large family of viruses that are common in people and different animal species. On rare occasions, animal coronaviruses can infect people, and then spread from person-to-person. This is how experts believe COVID-19 started. Typical symptoms of COVID-19 include fever, coughing, and shortness of breath. Symptoms can range from mild to severe.

To learn more about COVID-19, prevention steps, guidance for high-risk groups, travelers, and more, visit the CDC website.

 

QUESTION: What should I do if I have symptoms?

If you have a fever, coughing, and shortness of breath, call your VA medical center before going to a clinic, urgent care, or emergency room. You can also send your doctor a secure message through My HealtheVet.

Contacting us first helps us protect you, medical staff, and other patients.

Visit the CDC to learn more about the symptoms of COVID-19 and steps you should take if you are sick.

 

QUESTION: What's VA doing to deal with COVID-19?

We have activated VA’s Emergency Management Coordination Cell (EMCC) and have started clinical screenings at all VA facilities. Learn about VA Puget Sound Health Care System’s public health response by visiting our website. The information is only updated when new changes are added, otherwise the last one featured reflects current operational status. Learn more about VA’s overall public health response.

 

QUESTION: Can I be tested for COVID-19?

Testing is based on many factors, including the severity of symptoms, other existing illnesses or conditions, possible exposure, and other criteria. VA health facilities have been testing Veterans who meet the testing criteria provided by the CDC.

 
QUESTION: What should I do if I have an upcoming VA health appointment?

For routine appointments, we recommend using telehealth (phone or video) for your scheduled appointment. If you have any questions about your appointment, want to reschedule or convert a clinic appointment to a virtual one, call us at 1-800-329-8387 extension 71234, call your primary care team or use My HealtheVet.

If you have a non-urgent elective procedure scheduled, we may contact you to cancel or reschedule for a later date. Note: Procedures your care team decides are urgent and emergent will continue as scheduled.

Again, to change your in-person appointment to a telehealth visit:

Learn about VA telehealth appointments.

 

QUESTION: How do I reschedule or cancel my upcoming VA appointment?

Sign into your VA.gov account to reschedule or cancel your appointments online.

Note: Some clinics are advising patients to not reschedule or schedule new appointments for some types of routine care, as they develop more guidance on safely providing care to protect patients and staff. Because this is a rapidly changing situation, the best way to get the most up-to-date facility information is to check VA Puget Sound’s website.

 

QUESTION: What if I tried to call my clinic, and I can’t get through?

We apologize if you’re not able to get through or are experiencing long hold times. We’re currently experiencing very high numbers of calls. Our staff is working hard to handle the increase in calls.

To help us address the most urgent needs first, we ask that you use one of our online tools for routine or non-urgent concerns. You can:

  • Use Secure Messaging. You can send a secure message to your provider about any health concern or question.
  • Download VA Video Connect. Your provider may ask you to consider telehealth for an upcoming appointment. By downloading and learning about the VA Video Connect app now, you can prepare yourself.
  • Try health chat (limited availability). You may be able to use our health chat if your primary VA health facility is part of the VA health chat pilot. See if you're able to use health chat.

  

QUESTION: What should I do if I need to refill my prescription?

If you currently get your prescription sent to you by mail, you’ll continue to receive your refills as normal. If you usually pick up your prescriptions in person, we encourage you to use our online prescription refill and tracking tool. To make sure you have your medicine in time, request your refill at least 10 days before you’ll run out of your current prescription.

For questions about your prescriptions, send a secure message to your provider through My HealtheVet.

 

QUESTION: Can I use emergency care?

If you’re experiencing a life-threatening medical emergency, call 911 or go to your nearest emergency room.

If you have an urgent care need, we ask that you contact us first. You can use secure messaging or call your facility’s advice nurse before going to a clinic or walk-in urgent care facility. By only using the Emergency Room for medical emergencies, you can help us protect you, medical staff and other patients, as well as help us address critical medical needs first during this period of COVID-19 outbreak.


Symptoms that may need emergency medical (immediate) attention include:

  • Chest pain
  • Numbness or tingling in your arms or on one side of your body
  • Severe fever or violent vomiting
  • Bleeding that doesn’t stop
Symptoms that may need urgent care attention (within 24 to 48 hours) include:
  • Sore throat, earache
  • Sprains or strained muscles from sports or exercise
  • Minor cuts and injuries


QUESTION: I don’t have symptoms, but I feel anxious and overwhelmed. What can I do?

Concerns about COVID-19 can be stressful for many people, and it’s understandable to feel anxious. It’s important to take steps to manage stress and take care of yourself.


QUESTION:
How do I know if my VA health facility is still open for regular appointments?

Because this is a rapidly changing situation, the best way you can get the most up-to-date facility information is to check VA Puget Sound’s website. If you have any questions about your appointment, want to reschedule or convert a clinic appointment to a virtual one, call us at 1-800-329-8387 extension 71234, call your primary care team or use My HealtheVet.


QUESTION: Can I visit a patient at a VA facility?

Currently VA Puget Sound care sites have suspended general visitation. Guests and Veterans without appointments or valid medical needs will be restricted at all VA Puget Sound Health Care System care sites until COVID-19 is no longer a threat to our community.

If you have been advised by your care team to come in to be seen or you need to be seen in the emergency department, please come in.

We recognize there are times when having a family member or visitor present is crucial, therefore exceptions will be considered on a case-by-case basis. We also encourage family members and friends to use alternative ways to interact with their hospitalized loved ones, including phone calls, Facetime, Skype and other means.

More details about the new policy can be found here and we’ll continue to update you on VA policy changes.

Note: In order to protect the most vulnerable patients against community spread, we're currently not permitting outside visitors to see residents in nursing homes and spinal cord injury, except for compassionate cases. "Compassionate case" means that the Veteran is in their last stage of life in a hospice unit. In compassionate cases, visitors will be limited to a specific Veteran’s room only.

Learn about the steps we’re taking to protect Veterans in nursing homes.

To learn about social distancing and other ways to prevent community spread of COVID-19, visit the CDC website.

VA Puget Sound provides comprehensive care to more than 112,000 Veterans across one of its ten facilities in the Pacific Northwest (two divisions in Seattle and Tacoma; seven Community Based Outpatient Clinics in Bellevue, Chehalis, Federal Way, Mount Vernon, Port Angeles, North Seattle, Silverdale and South Sound; and the Community Resource and Referral Center). As the VA’s 5th largest research program, VA Puget Sound has research in virtually every major clinical department, including: TBI & multiple blast exposures; memory improvement and Alzheimer's Disease; PTSD and deployment health; Parkinson’s Disease, diabetes; cancer; substance abuse; lower limb prosthetics; genomics; and Health Services. Additionally, it has seven nationally recognized Centers of Excellence (in areas from limb-loss prevention and prosthetic engineering to primary care education and substance abuse treatment). For more information visit www.pugetsound.va.gov.

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