Boise VA finds it increasingly difficult to care for veterans during the pandemic

Posted at 11:20 AM, Nov 01, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-01 20:31:13-05

BOISE, Idaho — The Boise VA continues to work through the pandemic to provide healthcare for veterans.

However, the virus has had an impact as several doctors, nurses and staff have contracted the virus despite all the safety precautions the VA has implemented.

"We have had a number of staff who had to be out at home because they have gotten COVID," said Dr. Andrew Wilper, the chief of staff at the Boise VA. "A number of others have been out on quarantine as a result of their exposures, this has had multiple domino effects."

The VA has hired additional staff and set up a robust Telehealth network, but they have also had to cancel some elective surgeries and postpone some other services.

Dr. Wilper says his biggest concern comes from the VA having more hospitalizations than it has ever had during the pandemic.

"That is incredibly troublesome, and I will tell you for people who are doubting the reality of this infection COVID is real, it is deadly and it has taken the lives of some of our veterans," said Dr. Wilper. "We currently have an outbreak at the state veterans home, and currently, the Boise VA is sending help to the state home to assist their clinical operations."

The Idaho Department of Veterans Services manages the Idaho State Veterans Home, we tried to get in contact to learn more, but in fairness, we made that call on Friday afternoon.

As for Dr. Wilper, he wants to get a message out to the public in hopes that they will follow health district guidelines, avoid large gatherings and wear masks for the sake of the veterans in our community.

"Putting on a mask is a minor inconvenience to help stop the spread of a disease that is dramatically impacting hospital operations at the Boise VA," said Dr. Wilper. "It is affecting the health of our veterans and our staff."

The staff has also been in the trenches since March, working through the pandemic, and there is no sign of the virus slowing down as we head towards winter.

"We are very concerned about their morale and potential for burnout because there really haven't been any breaks in the last six months," said Dr. Wilper. "Now things appear to be getting worse, so in response to the current surge, we are actually considering and activating today, a shutdown of more of our services to help shift staff from outpatient and elective care to acute care for COVID positive patients."

The Boise VA has also joined the fight against COVID-19 in other ways by providing tens of thousands of tests for the state, the VA has sent ventilators to eastern Idaho and is assisting over at the Idaho State Veterans Home.