1 dead, 17 COVID-stricken amid outbreak at Jesse Brown VA Hospital

CHICAGO — Jesse Brown VA Hospital is dealing with a COVID-19 outbreak after more than a dozen tested positive for the deadly virus.

Chief of Staff Susan Unterman confirms so far, one patient has died and 17 patients are COVID-stricken. She says they are taking this situation extremely seriously and that this facility should be a place of healing and not of harm. 

WGN News spoke with a veteran who recently learned of the circumstance. Vietnam veteran Roger McGill serves as director of the Chicago VVA Chapter 242. Over the years, he has had several medical appointments at local VA hospitals, including Wednesday morning. 

“Today, I happened to have an eye exam and I was in the hospital at Jesse Brown,” he said. “When I went over to our building after my eye exam, I was talking to some of the security guards and how upset they were they had lost somebody in the hospital.”
A 90-year-old patient awaiting a lung transplant died after testing positive for COVID-19. Seventeen other patients at the Jesse Brown VA Hospital tested positive as well. 
“It’s kind of shocking,” McGill said.

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In an internal memo sent last week to staff obtained by the Chicago Sun-Times, Unterman called the situation horrific and disturbing, saying: 

“We have committed very real harm to a large number of patients this week.  All of these patients are vaccinated, and yet when a sick staff member came to work several days in a row, they exposed many patients to COVID who were here for other reasons. We did this and we need to take responsibility.” 
The email said two patients were currently intubated. If they are sick, she told staff not to come to work and added that all staff must wear an n95 respirator masks, and those around patients also don goggles or face shields. 

After a walk-through of the facility, Unterman said that dozens of people – both staff and visitors – were found not wearing masks. 

McGill said he saw various instances for himself Wednesday morning. 
“When I was in the cafeteria this morning, there was someone, a worker there, that didn’t have a mask,” McGill said. “One of the veterans said, ‘hey, put that mask on, get it up.’”

The hospital will not allow any visitors except in end-of-life situations and limits visitation to two people per family member. Also, the veteran hospital will be testing staff on the fifth and sixth floor, following a cluster of cases.

“I’m troubled by the outbreak at Jesse Brown Medical Center and the wellbeing of our Veterans,” said Senator Tammy Duckworth, a military veteran. “As COVID cases rise in Illinois, it’s as important as ever we all continue to follow necessary COVID precautions like wearing masks and getting our vaccine and booster shots. I’ll keep monitoring this situation and do everything I can to ensure our veterans are safe.”

Hospital representatives also stated that they would be starting weekly COVID-19 testing of unvaccinated staff beginning next week. 

File source

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