VA is available for virtual video/telephone care and limited in-person appointments. Contact your clinic with any questions. You must wear a mask while in the facility More Details
COVID-19 vaccines: All Veterans, spouses and caregivers can get a COVID-19 vaccine at VA by appointment or walk-in clinic. Visit our vaccine information page.
Prepare for a visit: Everyone entering our facilities is screened, and visitors are limited. Face coverings are mandatory. For some needs, you may be able to get care at home by phone or video.
For the latest coronavirus information: Visit the CDC website.
Home-Based Primary Care Battles COVID
The COVID pandemic hit the world hard. Doctors, nurses, and other health professionals at hospitals and clinics have been struggling to care for people with COVID-19, and to get them the vaccines needed to end the pandemic.
At the beginning of the pandemic, Amy Hartjes, RN Program Manager reflected on several questions. “We’ve had to ask ourselves, Who do we see? What do we do before a visit? Do we make in-person visits? How do we protect our clients? How do we protect our staff?”
At first, the HBPC program looked for innovative ways to provide specialized supportive care within the home environment during the statewide mandated shut down in 2020.
“Our HBPC program needed to adapt to the ever-changing world in which we were working,” Hartjes explained. “Our program had to leverage the strengths and services the best way we knew how.”
The HBPC team offered a new way to reach out to Veterans. This innovative idea was the start of HBPC Plus Programming and was developed as a temporary solution during the COVID surge to avoid hospitalizations of the most high-risk Veterans while strategically providing medical care within the home environment in a safe manner. This programming provided support for the Tomah VAMC facility mission in a number of ways.
The program managed the surge of COVID admissions, provided potential medical support for discharging hospitalizations to decrease length of stay, and decreased the number of high risk/healthy Veterans from potential exposure of COVID-19 by conducting a higher volume of home visits rather than Veteran visits into the facility. The essential services provided by HBPC Plus included high need critical lab draws, wound care, medication setups, focus assessments, injections, monitoring of new medications, and suture removals.
“The Tomah HBPC VAMC Programming was always evaluating how we could best serve the Veterans during these difficult times,” said Hartjes. “We never stopped, we just adapted our visits. We looked at what was needed, who could go, how we would ensure the safety of the Veteran. We employed our VA Video Connect conferencing technology, with our patients and families when we could, using their laptop, smartphone, or tablet to communicate with us to provide face to face appointments in the safety of their home.”
A significant update in the fight against COVID, is the deployment of the Moderna vaccine. The process of getting a COVID-19 vaccination can be very difficult for those with disabilities and their families. The Tomah VAMC program is trying to change that through an in-home vaccination program. Vaccinations in the most rural areas of Wisconsin is not without its challenges.
“Once the VA announced our ability to vaccinate,” Hartjes continued, “we created a program to take the vaccines on the road. It is vaccination clinic on wheels. All of the individuals receiving the vaccine through Home Based Primary care programming have difficulty leaving their homes. That could be because they’re high risk to get COVID, or they have other health conditions that prevent them from leaving. It’s great to be able to provide them the vaccine and peace of mind.”
Hartjes said feedback from patients has been positive and grateful. “We started our first administration in January, 2021,” she said. “All HBPC Veterans were offered vaccines and we’ve provided vaccination to 85% of them.. HBPC Plus also supports Tomah primary care in providing vaccinations to those having difficulties getting to their primary care providers in the clinics as well. It’s helped significantly to avoid hospital admissions and stays by keeping those individuals at home.”
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