VA Doctors on Health Effects of COVID-19 on Veterans | Chicago News

On Veterans Day, Americans remember and celebrate those members of the military who made the ultimate sacrifice. But living veterans have fought another enemy over the past year: the coronavirus pandemic.

While many people struggled with anxiety and depression throughout the COVID-19 crisis, veterans facing issues such as PTSD and substance abuse have been particularly affected.

A new study of veterans concluded that “psychiatric symptoms and suicidal ideation are prevalent in veterans who survived COVID-19. “

According to two doctors at local veterans hospitals, veterans have been able to access mental health assistance through telehealth services throughout the pandemic.

“We had significant concerns about the increasing rates of mental illness and substance use among our patients, especially those who were not actively involved in care during the worst of the pandemic,” said Dr. Sarah Unterman, physician at the emergency at Jesse Brown. VA Medical Center in Chicago.

“We have actively reached out to these people to use virtual care to keep them connected,” she said. “We have seen people who have postponed their care for many months, sometimes even throughout the pandemic, but we are using the new tools that we have built during the pandemic to give them even better treatment than we would have been. . capable in advance.

It appears that VA hospitals will continue to use telehealth methods after the pandemic to reach their patients. “We continue to do this,” said Dr. Jeffrey Oken, acting chief of staff at Edward Hines Jr. VA Hospital. “We will keep a large part of our appointments in the form of video appointments in order to offer greater flexibility to our patients.”

Both hospitals are now fully open and welcome patients in person. “There is a huge pent-up demand. It’s really amazing, ”Oken said. “Our clinics are full. We welcome our veterans face to face as well as virtually. “

Masks are still needed, however. “We continue to have mandatory masking on our campus,” Oken said.

“According to the CDC, you should always wear a mask inside a healthcare facility, which we are,” Unterman said. “In addition, since we are a federal facility, we are still operating under the presidential decree of January 20, which required the wearing of a mask on all federal property. So when people object, we explained to them that according to both the President of the United States and the CDC, we all have to wear masks, ”she said.

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