Sinema Highlights Importance of Staffing and Support at VA Health Centers During Coronavirus

Jul 1, 2020

WASHINGTON – Arizona senior Senator Kyrsten Sinema spoke today in a Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee hearing on the importance of ensuring VA health centers and hospitals are fully staffed to support the influx of patients due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
“In Arizona, the VA health system covers rural areas, representing an additional challenge to recruiting and retaining VA employees. With COVID-19 cases rising across the state, ensuring we have enough staff to support the need is critical,” said Sinema. 
According to reports from the VA, roughly 277 veterans and 28 staff members have tested positive within the Phoenix VA health care system. The Phoenix VA Medical Center is currently equipped with overflow tents outside to provide additional care. There are 405 total active cases at the VA in Arizona, 40 of which are employees. Additionally, of the 14,000 beds in veteran hospitals across the country, about 500 are occupied with COVID-19 patients.
Sinema questioned officials on how the VA can improve hiring and retention practices to ensure the VA health system is ready for the current pandemic and future public health emergencies. Sinema also highlighted how the Prescott area of Arizona has a high cost of living but does not qualify for the locality pay that Phoenix does, leading to hiring and retention issues for positions such as housekeepers. Sinema asked officials how the VA can counter these challenges.