VA hospital employee continued on-site work after recent trip to Ireland, without self-quarantining

Published: Mar. 24, 2020 at 11:03 PM MDT
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An anonymous worker at the Grand Junction VA Hospital says they are concerned after another VA employee recently came back from a trip to Ireland and continued on site work at the hospital without self-quarantining.

“I guess she got back around March 16th,” says the anonymous worker.

With the rapid spread of COVID-19, the anonymous worker says they have concerns that the employee may have been exposed to it when the individual was abroad.

“Pretty much everyone knew she left. I think everyone assumed that she was self-quarantining for two weeks and they were surprised to see her yesterday. It’s hard to stay calm about this, I really want some accountability this time,” says the anonymous worker.

In an interview on Monday, 3/23, Acting Director for the VA Patrick Hull addressed the situation.

“We’re working with our staff here to have the employee work from home, that’s our self-isolation. That employee is able to tele-work. And make sure that we’re following the CDC guidelines and the VA guidelines in trying to help reduce any risk to our patients and employees,” says Hull.

The VA tells us that after the employee returned from their trip to Ireland, they immediately returned to work at the hospital for a full week. The anonymous worker says during that week the employee interacted with other co-workers.

“I feel like she had a potential to expose the entire hospital to COVID-19,” says the anonymous worker.

The VA says upon the employee’s return from Ireland she was subject to a screening. They say up until this point she has shown no symptoms of COVID-19. The VA confirmed the employee was sent home to tele-work on Monday afternoon, 3/23.

The anonymous worker says this might not have been enough.

“If other people are in this kind of situation, don’t let your supervisor downplay this or don’t let people downplay it. It’s a serious thing. I wish that those in charge would take it a little bit more seriously and take our feelings into consideration when we’re talking about it,” says the anonymous worker.

The VA Hospital confirmed that they were notified when the employee was leaving for the trip and when they returned.

Acting Director Hull says that for the past six to eight weeks the hospital has been putting protocols into place. Hull tells us that they are actively screening everybody coming into the facility and are asking the questions that the CDC and the VA have approved in their protocol.

The anonymous worker and the VA both confirmed that the employee is a nurse, but that the employee does not work with patients and interacts solely with other employees.

The GJ VA hospital says that they have been following CDC guidelines.

The CDC first posted on their website on March 15, 2020: “Because the United Kingdom shares an open border with the Republic of Ireland (Ireland), CDC recommends that travelers avoid all nonessential travel to all countries in the United Kingdom and also Ireland.”

The notice continues: “Travelers returning from the United Kingdom or Ireland should stay home for 14 days after returning from travel, monitor their health, and practice social distancing.”

The CDC says the following countries are included in this notice: England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, Republic of Ireland (Ireland).

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