Bay Pines VA Healthcare System
Prepare for Your Visit
Prepare for a visit: Everyone entering our facilities is screened, and visitors are limited. Face coverings are mandatory. Please contact us first before going to any of our locations. For some needs, you may be able to get care at home by phone or video.
Importance of Wearing a Mask
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) continues to recommend all individuals wear masks in public or when around people who don’t live in the same household to stop the spread of COVID-19. VA requires masks to be worn while on our campuses and in our facilities.
This is especially true for people with lung diseases like asthma, emphysema and COPD because they may be at greater risk of severe complications and even death from COVID-19.
The American Lung Association, among others, indicate wearing a mask does not significantly affect oxygen or carbon dioxide levels.
Individuals who have trouble tolerating a mask due to claustrophobia or anxiety can lessen these feelings by progressively wearing the mask for longer periods of time to adjust. They can also try different kinds of masks to find one that fits better or is more comfortable. Patients can speak with their health care provider about other options that may be available but still provide an acceptable level protection. It is important to note that masks with breathing valves do not offer protection but rather allow for the spread of the virus. If patients arrive on campus with this type of mask, they will be required to wear a VA issued one.
Your Safe Care is Our Mission
If you are experiencing a medical or psychiatric emergency, please call 9-1-1 or visit an emergency room closest to you.
What to do if you think you have COVID-19
If you are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 or respiratory illness (fever, cough, shortness of breath), please call the VISN 8 Clinical Contact Center at 1-877-741-3400, come to the Emergency Department, or utilize a community urgent care.
Testing for COVID-19
Currently, VA is testing patients and employees who are symptomatic as well as those who are scheduled for medical procedures and visiting our Dental Clinics. We are also testing employees and residents of our Community Living Centers and other inpatient units in accordance with current CDC guidance.
Safety measures at our facilities
Your safety is important to us. The following measures have been implemented:
- We continue to limit the number of in-person healthcare appointments and use telehealth modalities. Before you visit, contact your care team (either by phone or our secure messaging system) or the VISN 8 Clinical Contact Center to confirm your appointment. We encourage you to continue to use our virtual care options (Telehealth, VA Video Connect, VISN 8 Clinical Contact Center) for most primary care and mental health services. If you need an in-person appointment, one will be scheduled by your care team.
- Everyone is required to wear a face masks our facilities. You and your caregivers are permitted to wear homemade or cloth masks. Homemade masks must be clean and fully cover the lower part of the face (nose to chin). If you do not have a mask on entry, VA will provide one. Refusal to wear a face mask may result in the denial of care for that day and your appointment rescheduled, accordingly. Employees will wear VA issued surgical masks or personal protective equipment (PPE) depending on their job. Please note that if an employee is working outside or in a private office, a mask is not required. However, staff are expected to maintain physical distancing when possible and re-apply their mask if they enter a discussion with someone within 6-foot of their location while outside.
- We will continue strict entry-point health screening, including temperature checks, for ALL before they are allowed to enter any BPVAHCS facility, to include the Lee County Healthcare Center, and at any of the Community Based Outpatient Clinics. This also includes buildings located on the C.W. Bill Young VA Medical Center campus (i.e. the National Cemetery Administration, Veteran Benefits Administration, credit union, or post office). Please allow a bit of extra time for this process.
- Access and visitation restrictions to the Community Living Center are still currently in place until further notice.
- We have a limited visitor policy in place that impacts people who accompany patients to the appointment. If a caregiver must drive you to the medical center or clinic, he or she may not be permitted to be with you in the appointment unless medically required. Please talk to your healthcare provider or screener when entering the facility to determine whether or not the visitor will be able to accompany you to your appointment.
- If you are undergoing a medical procedure or a patient in our Dental Clinic, you will be tested for COVID-19 prior to surgery. Veterans admitted to residential units (Community Living Centers or inpatient Mental Health programs) will also be tested prior to admission.
- Visitations are prohibited in inpatient and all other residential areas; exceptions may be made in compassionate cases.
- We have made changes to waiting areas, check-in desks and other common spaces to encourage physical distancing. Please maintain a 6-foot separation between you and others where possible. Additional space between seating, plexiglass panels, limited elevator capacity, and visual markings on floors, are just a few of the changes you will notice at our facilities. We encourage the use of VEText to check into appointments and for you to remain in your vehicle until texted/notified to enter the facility.
- While we always strive to provide a clean environment, we are conducting additional cleaning measures such as more frequent cleaning of high-touch services like doorknobs, handrails, countertops and vinyl seating, as well as removal of magazines and other paper documents from waiting areas to ensure your safety. As a reminder, washing your hands with soap and water (for at least 20 seconds) is still the best way to clean your hands. However, if that is not possible, additional hand hygiene stations are located throughout our facilities.
What to expect when you’re here
When you come to our facilities for your appointment, things will likely look different and some of our processes have changed for your continued safety.
- Access to our facility is limited for emergency care or by appointment only.
- Save time when arriving to the facility by using your mobile device to send a text with the word “Screen” to 53079 for a fast pass response to display to the screeners.
- Please do not arrive more than 20 minutes before your scheduled appointment time.
- Wear a face covering or mask at all times while in our facilities; our staff will wear masks and personal protective equipment (PPE) as well.
- Please observe physical distancing signage in waiting areas, elevators, Veteran Canteen and other common areas.
- Caregivers will not be allowed to join you for your appointment unless you need them for mobility or cognitive support. They will be asked to wait in the designated parking locations. It is important that your care team has their contact information so we can call them when you are ready for pick-up.
New check-in process
We have implemented a new text message-based check-in procedure using VEText. This new feature allows Veterans with scheduled appointments to notify their care team when they arrive at the facility and to receive further instruction.
To use this feature, you must have a text-capable cell phone number on file with us. If you are unsure if we have a number on file, please contact your care team or you can verify that information when you are contacted to schedule an appointment.
The process is simple!
- When you arrive on campus, send a text message stating “HERE” to the previously sent appointment reminder to your cellphone, or to 53079. This will alert your care team you are at the facility waiting to be called to your appointment.
- You will receive a text acknowledging your check-in status.
- When your care team is ready for you, you will receive a text instructing you to proceed to your appointment.
Virtual care options
The VISN 8 Clinical Contact Center is a service of the VA Sunshine Healthcare Network (VISN 8) - providing 24/7, virtual care and support to Veterans enrolled for VA Health Care in Florida, South Georgia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Veterans who receive care in the network can call 1-877-741-3400 around the clock to get their health questions or concerns answered from the comfort and convenience of their home, or wherever they may be. Veterans can also contact the center using VA Health Chat – a secure mobile chat application available for IOS and Android devices – Monday through Friday from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
Other virtual access to care options are available too. Learn more at www.connectedcare.va.gov.