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Florida veterans hospitals are set to resume elective surgeries and procedures using a phased approach, allowing for facilities to remain COVID-19 ready. 

“It’s important for us to be prepared for any surge in COVID patients that may come up as communities are re-opening,” said Mary Kay Rutan, spokeswoman for the Veterans Affairs network that oversees medical centers in Florida, reported Tampa Bay Times.

In-person appointments will be prioritized by clinical need, and patients are still encouraged to use online and over-the-phone services if possible. Veterans can contact The Veterans Integrated Service Network 8 Clinical Contact Center at 1-877-741-3400, which provides 24-hour response to health questions or concerns.

Other COVID-19 safety measures will remain in effect, including visitor limitations and COVID-19 testing on all admitted patients. 

“Universal masking remains in effect, and physical distancing practices have been enhanced with changes to waiting areas, check-in desks and through scheduling of staggered appointments,” said Melanie Thomas, spokeswoman for Bay Pines in an email. “High-touch sanitation procedures have been in place since mid-March.”

Both the Bay Pines VA Healthcare System in St. Petersburg and the James A. Haley Veterans’ Hospital in Tampa started the first phase of the transition plan by offering elective procedures in ophthalmology, orthopedic, urology and other areas.

Once the later phases of reopening begin, the hospitals will again provide in-person primary care and mental health appointments.

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