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Columbia VA expands health services during the pandemic

With the number of coronavirus cases going down in the state, the CEO expects they'll be back up to 3,700 or more patients in the next few weeks.
Credit: WLTX

COLUMBIA, S.C. — The Columbia VA Healthcare System has announced they are starting to safely expand their services. 

As of August 17, the Columbia VA has expanded their health services.

"We cater to 85,000 veterans and we typically, prior to COVID, have served 3,700 a day and we're excited to get back to those numbers again," said David Omura, CEO of the Columbia VA Healthcare System.

The decision to expand services was made after meeting with clinical staff daily and working with their logistic team.

"We feel now with our numbers coming down in South Carolina that we're poised to start offering additional services," explained Omura. "We'll continue to do it in a very cautious and thoughtful way, but we're excited to open our doors wider at this time."

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Because of the coronavirus, the healthcare system dropped their capacity for outpatient services to a little more than a thousand a day. Part of this is due to staff being cautious and putting more focus on virtual care.

"What's really happened is that we've increased our virtual services by three to four thousand percent from when we first started. Now we're in a point where as we continue to augment through tele-based care, we can now offer more face to face to really get back up to those numbers that we were at before," said Omura.

The healthcare system said they see about a thousand telehealth appointments a day. They also said in a press release, "Although the Columbia VA never stopped providing care to veterans, the facility will start to perform work that no longer falls only in the category of “emergent and urgent services.” "

The CEO expects they'll be back up to 3,700 or more patients in the next few weeks.

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While they are expanding their services, they will continue to follow the same safety protocols already in place. Veterans and staff will be screened as they come into the facility, universal masking will also be utilized and they will continue to make sure social distancing is being practiced.

"What I think is important for our community to know is that we are opening our doors but we are being very thoughtful to make sure that if you do come in our doors, it is for a scheduled appointment. We are not taking walk-ins at this time because we want to make sure that we can handle what's coming into us each and every day," said Omura.

Omura believes this is a big win for veterans in the community.

"We were sending more work out in the community but even our community cannot see all these patients because everyone is dealing with the same struggles," explained Omura. "The more we can do here in conjunction with our community will allow us to be more successful as one unit."

The CEO said they have not had any issues with veterans receiving medication through the mail during the pandemic.

"I hope that our community understands that the Columbia VA has never shut their doors down," said Omura. "We are now just augmenting our services and we're excited to see you whether it's here in Columbia or one of our seven out-patient clinics across this great state of South Carolina."

For more on how the Columbia VA Healthcare System is handling the coronavirus pandemic, click here.

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