INDIANAPOLIS — The VA Medical Center in Indianapolis is among several VA hospitals across the country that have reported a “critical shortage” of nurses.
WRTV Investigates partnered with Newsy and found more and more nurses are getting sick with the coronavirus or are in quarantine at hospitals that serve military veterans.
The Richard L. Roudebush VA Medical Center in Indianapolis provides inpatient and outpatient services to thousands of Indiana veterans every year.
But records obtained by our partners at Newsy uncovered the hospital has been asking for help to provide adequate staffing.
The Indianapolis VA medical center is one of six VA medical centers in Midwest cities including Cleveland and Detroit, described in a federal contracting document in December as facing a “critical shortage” of nurses “due to RNs becoming infected with COVID-19, as well as requirements to self-quarantine due to confirmed or probable exposure.”
“The crisis is coming,” said Yvonne Evans, a nurse at the VA medical center in Detroit. "The surge hasn't quite hit yet. After this holiday I honestly believe this surge is going to increase."
Data reviewed by our partners at Newsy from the VA shows cases of COVID-19 among VA employees nationwide began a sharp climb in November as infections across the country ballooned.
While anyone who catches the virus can be sidelined, nurses out sick impacts health care of others.
WRTV Investigates contacted the Indianapolis VA, and Chief Strategy Officer Richard Griffith said there is no impact on patients.
“All VA medical centers have adequate capacity to meet current demand due to the temporary hiring of contract nurses when needed and the hiring of more than 72,000 new VA health care workers since late March,” Griffith said in an email to WRTV. “Contract hiring decisions like these are routine and, coupled with the hiring of more than 72,000 new VA health care workers since late March, have enabled the department to successfully treat more than 105,000 COVID patients and test nearly 1.1 million people for the virus, all while limiting the department’s current employee infection rate to less than one percent — much lower than other health care systems.”
Nurse Yvonne Evans caught COVID-19 in spring and still has breathing difficulty, which limits her ability to work.
"This virus is no joke!” Evans said. “And us frontline health workers, we're right there in the battlefield."