As Hospitals Face Capacity Limits, Rose Proposes Examining VA Facilities as Option to Expand Healthcare Capacity
At state’s request, Administration has authority to open up VA facilities to serve general public in emergency cases
Staten Island, March 20, 2020
As New York continues to seek every possible avenue to increase hospital capacity in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19), Congressman Max Rose, Member of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, wrote to Governor Andrew Cuomo today urging him to consider requesting from the federal government that Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) hospitals and facilities be opened up to the general public on an emergency basis.
“We’re in uncharted, unprecedented times where all of us need to come together to find creative ways to ramp up healthcare capacity as fast as possible before it’s too late,” said Rose, an Army combat veteran and former nonprofit healthcare executive. “As a veteran myself, I never want to take away from the VA’s ability to serve and treat our veterans— but if we do not act now that will happen and for a much longer time. Our veterans are particularly at-risk from Coronavirus so we must be ready to deploy every option available to bend the curve and having VA resources available in the worst-case scenario is a part of that.”
The VA serves a role in both the National Response Framework (NRF) and the National Disaster Medical System (NDMS) as an option to supplement health and medical systems at the request of state, local, tribal, or territorial authorities. In order for the VA to open up facilities to the general public, the Governor must make a request to on behalf of the state to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, which then would offer approval and direction to VA.
“The VA must adhere to several missions in serving the American public, and while its number one mission must always be caring for our veterans, it is time for VA to serve another key function—to provide hospital care and emergency services to non-veteran civilians during emergencies,” wrote Rose in a letter to Governor Cuomo. “As our civilian hospitals fill with patients, we must consider these facilities as options for our state. … VA was built to operate in these emergency conditions, and should be utilized”
Rose, a former nonprofit healthcare executive, has been leading efforts to expand hospital and testing capacity for the coronavirus. On Tuesday, Rose and Borough President James Oddo helped secure emergency tents for RUMC to expand capacity at the hospital for coronavirus treatment. Following a push by Rose, the Navy’s hospital ship USNS Comfort will be deployed to New York Harbor in the coming weeks. After urging by Rose, the Governor opened the first drive-through testing facility in New York City on Staten Island yesterday. Rose toured the testing site with the Commissioner of the State Department of Environmental Conservation.
Last week, Following pressure by Rose, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced approvals for Roche and ThermoFisher machines to begin automated testing. Last week, Rose pressed top Administration officials both in a Congressional hearing and in a bipartisan letter on the need to approve automated coronavirus testing to increase capacity across New York. Rose also joined fellow New York Members of Congress in urging the CDC to expedite approval of expanded testing in New York City.
Full text of letter HERE.