VA health centers shift some care online to prepare for COVID-19 surge

Beth LeBlanc
The Detroit News

Veterans Administration health centers in Michigan will shift many routine appointments to virtual care in the coming days to prepare for an expected uptick in patients due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The transition at medical centers across Michigan, Indiana and Ohio will include facilities in Detroit, Pontiac, Ann Arbor, Flint, Jackson, Saginaw, Battle Creek and Yale. 

Operations at several community-based outpatient clinics will shift to triage and virtual care only. The Packard Road Clinic in Ann Arbor will maintain mental health services while reducing or shifting to virtual care for other services. 

In the 1990s, Detroit the John D. Dingell VA Medical Center opened in Detroit, now offering services to nearly 350,000 veterans in Michigan.

“This type of tactical planning is in the best interest of our nation’s heroes,” VA Ann Arbor Health Care System Director Dr. Ginny Creasman said in a statement. “These are extraordinary measures that will minimize the spread of COVID-19 and take full advantage of our ability to quickly reallocate our resources and talent pool so that we can treat the sickest veterans.”

Veterans in affected regions should call (734) 845-5290, extension 2 for the Ann Arbor system and (313) 576-1000 for the Detroit system with questions about their appointments. 

“We are working to eliminate unnecessary face to face contact to help minimize the spread of COVID-19 and maximize our resource allocation to help treat the sickest Veterans,” John D. Dingell VA Medical Center Director Dr. Pamela Reeves said in a statement. “We remain open for business and our mission is unchanged from the charge President Abraham Lincoln gave us more than 150 years ago: To care for him who shall have borne the battle.”

The announcement comes as hospitals across the state and nation limit visitors and prepare facilities to handle the growing number of COVID-19 cases. 

The state of Michigan had 549 confirmed cases as of 10 a.m. Friday and the number is expected to grow as testing becomes more available. 

Three people, all Wayne County residents with underlying condition that put them at greater risk, died Wednesday after testing positive for the virus.