“We certainly have to do everything we can to protect our veterans,” Shulkin said. “So many of them are older and vulnerable and really deserve to be especially cared for. Our men and women who work in the VA health care system are doing such a terrific job. I’m so proud of them. But they’re doing this under extraordinarily difficult circumstances.”
The VA’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) said last week that the hospital system set up for the nation’s veterans is ill-equipped to handle the coronavirus pandemic.
Shawn asked Shulkin why the department was not prepared.
“Well, the VA does prepare for these types of emergency situations, but I don’t think anybody was prepared for the extent of this pandemic,” Shulkin said. “And while the VA is the largest health care system in the country and plans for these types of things, you can see that this came on fast. I think the lack of diagnostic testing did not allow people to prepare for this in the way that [in] retrospect everyone wishes that they had.”
“And so it [caught] some of the VA hospitals off guard, as well. But they’ve been working hard to try to keep up with the demand,” Shulkin said. “The fact that so many the employees, though, are getting sick is not making it easier.”
The former secretary said the department is going to have to find a way to protect its veterans and workers.
“And we’re going to have to make sure that we find ways to protect those that are there by moving those out that are not infected, and certainly by making sure that the staff have the necessary staff numbers to be able to do their jobs appropriately,” Shulkin added. “And the protective equipment so they can do their job safely. It’s something that I think we owe everybody.”