Va Medical Center

tuscaloosa veterans affairs medical center

The COVID-19 pandemic has altered operations almost everywhere, and Tuscaloosa’s VA Medical Center is no different.

The VA is using this time of uncertainty to look back at their mission and live by it: “lifelong health, well being and resilience for veterans.”

Director John Merkle said that in order to keep these veterans in their best health, it is important to keep them at home if at all possible.

“Staff members are contacting veterans and conducting their telehealth appointments via phone, secure messaging or video chat,” he said.

Merkle said the response to these precautions has been accepted very well by the men and women they serve.

“The response has been very grateful from our veterans,” Merkle said. “They are both thankful and pleased they were called. I think our veterans have gotten the point that if you can’t make it to your appointment to call us, and they basically felt relieved that we were thinking of their overall well being and calling them and taking care of their needs in other ways during these uncertain times.”

Operations within the VA Medical Center are operating differently, as well.

“I am doing a Skype meeting for staff to give them the most up-to-date information,” Merkle said. “We are doing a very strong screening process and we are adjusting it as the CDC learns more things for our veterans. It is a little bit inconvenient, but it is for the safety of our veterans and staff and veterans. Then when you get into the facility, we put out a lot of cues for our veterans to separate certain seats to maintain social distancing.”

Merkle said he is proud of his staff and how they have come together during this fluid situation.

“Our chaplain service has set up a devotion for times like this twice a day,” he added.

No staff members or veterans at the Tuscaloosa VA have tested positive for COVID-19 at this time.

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