Coronavirus forces some local veterans to leave VA inpatient program

Space will be used for COVID-19 patients
Fort Thomas VA.png
Posted at 11:38 PM, Mar 19, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-20 12:33:31-04

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FORT THOMAS, Ky. -- Dozens of veterans were caught off guard Thursday when they were informed they were being discharged from an inpatient program at the Fort Thomas VA hospital. The domiciliary is being converted for use as an isolation space for COVID-19 patients.

“They said if you have somewhere to go, we suggest you get a hold of your family now and try and find a place to go," Navy veteran Timothy Bevis told WCPO.

Bevis said he was shocked to learn he'd be homeless in a few days because of the coronavirus.

“My counselor told me that unless I can find funds, I’m going to have to go to a shelter," Bevis said. "And I don’t have any funds right now.”

At least 30 veterans in the Domiciliary Care Program are being asked to leave so the space can be used to isolate people infected with COVID-19.

“That is what they are all kicking us out for is to bring sick people here and house them here I guess," Bevis said. "And they are putting the veterans out in the street.”

VA Public Affairs Chief Todd Sledge said the facility received a directive Thursday to find resources to accommodate a large number of coronavirus patients.

“That is one of our larger floors, one of our larger spaces," Sledge said. "And also for the safety of those veterans who actually -- some of them are living in communal rooms where there is three or four different members.”

Veterans in the program said they were given less than 48 hours to pack up their belongings and find a new place to live.

“Right now, its a fluid timeline," Sledge said. "We would like to say that within 48 hours if we could be mobilized and ready to take patients, that would be our goal. Right now, we are not. We don’t have a clock that is ticking that is telling us that that has to occur.”

According to the VA, veterans receiving counseling were given iPads to continue treatment virtually, but some veterans told WCPO they have not been given a device.

VA officials said they are working with local agencies to find living space for displaced veterans who don't have immediate family to stay with.

"They are talking about putting us in a shelter, you know, in a homeless shelter," Bevis said. "It's an unsafe environment, especially with the coronavirus.”

Sledge said the directives are not isolated to the Fort Thomas VA facility.

Other medical units within the Cincinnati area are also being prepped for COVID-19 changes.