New technology at Milwaukee VA hospital saves PPE masks, keeps workers safe

Posted at 9:57 PM, Apr 14, 2020

MILWAUKEE — The Milwaukee VA Hospital takes us inside the COVID-19 ward and shows the measures they are taking to protect patients and staff.

Before you even get to the front doors, you have to go through a tent. There, medical personnel are waiting to take temperatures and give assessments.

"We are screening every individual that enters the building. We are asking a series of questions as well as checking temperatures before they enter any unit," said Nate Davis, housekeeping aid supervisor.

Then, once you make through that and onto the floors where COVID-19 patients are being cared for, there is another layer of protection.

"We erected some zippered walls for containment, fashioned some anterooms where we can have our nursing staff and medical staff don PPE before entering in," said Gaylyn Raduenz, Infection Preventionist.

Davis supervises the people responsible for keeping the hospital clean. The former Air Force Firefighter said one of the ways the staff protect themselves is through new specialized equipment that reminds him of his firefighting days.

"Whenever we have an isolation room, we are donning a gown, as well as gloves. And now instead of N95 masks we are using a CAPR (Controlled Air Purifying Respirator). You are only breathing the air inside of that helmet connected to a battery pack," said Davis.

The CAPR masks have helped the VA cut down on their N95 mask. Those masks are explicitly used in rooms of COVID-19 patients. So the VA said they aren't facing the shortages of those masks that other hospitals across the state are dealing with.

Milwaukee VA A doctors and staff say every day they learn a little more in this battle against COVID-19. And though it's hard on the entire hospital, they know they are in it together.

"It's sort of that great unknown. Is the surge coming. Is this next patient going to come in and have COVID, and am I going to take that home to myself or family? How do I keep myself safe? Everyone's stress level is certainly a little bit higher, but overall we are doing well," said Ben Thelen, VA Nurse Manager.

Right now, the VA has a little more than a dozen COVID-19 patients on two floors.

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