VA Rapidly Deploys Innovative Mobile ICUs
While testing identifies more COVID-19 patients, hospitals like the Edward Hines, Jr. VA Hospital in Hines, Illinois, are finding ways to ensure they are prepared with enough hospital beds and medical equipment to meet demand. Working shoulder to shoulder, the Office of Information and Technology (OIT) and Veterans Health Administration (VHA) solved the Hines facility’s shortage of intensive care unit (ICU) beds for COVID-19 affected Veterans. In just two and a half days, emergency management staff from VHA and OIT turned an empty parking lot into a fully equipped and functioning ICU by deploying C-FORTS (Compound Fold-Out Rigid Temporary Shelter). The shelter allows staff to treat COVID-19 patients in a separate space when demand for hospital space by non-COVID patients is high. OIT emergency communications equipment powers the shelter to keep operations running smoothly for medical staff and Veterans.
As it was the first time OIT’s Office of Emergency Management worked with a C-FORTS structure, project requirements were unique and demanding with little time or room for error. OIT’s focus on timely and relevant support through close collaboration with VHA and local partners enabled them to quickly get the shelter up and running.
The mission succeeded as a result of strong partnership among many VA organizations and local institutions, including OIT’s Office of Emergency Management; local and remote OIT End User Operations staff; VHA’s Office of Emergency Management; Hines VA Hospital Leadership; and local police, medical, biomedical, and pharmacy personnel. “The results-driven response from our business partners was the key to success. The combined efforts of most everyone involved was remarkable,” Rick Zigrosser, Director of OIT Office of Emergency Management said as he reflected on this team effort. OIT provided printers, phones, and computers, supported biomedical and pharmacy equipment, and more to deliver continuous medical support to patients. OIT’s Office of Emergency Management provided emergency communications through the deployment of long-term evolution (LTE) routers and very small aperture terminals (VSATs). These devices connect medical staff to VA’s network and give patients internet access during their treatment. OIT’s Solution Delivery and Infrastructure Operations teams engineered and remotely supported the shelter’s equipment design and ensured proper functionality during the rapid deployment.
With their first C-FORTS ICU operational, VHA and OIT now have a new way to deliver health care to Veterans, not just during the COVID-19 pandemic but during other emergencies or disasters as well. OIT is monitoring the shelter and its capabilities to make improvements for the future. “For example, we will be permanently installing certain IT components and wiring the C-FORTS for future deployments,” said Rick.
VHA can be confident that facilities like this one have proper medical space to care for Veterans and combat COVID-19 cases. With the use of ICU C-FORTS, the Edward Hines, Jr. VA Hospital medical staff can now manage sudden influxes of patients while continuing to deliver world-class benefits and services. Furthermore, the ICU C-FORTS added space to allow Veterans the room needed to continue physical distancing during treatment.