South Texas Veterans Health Care System (STVHCS)
STX Fisher House hunkers down
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic and dynamic planning efforts of the STVHCS Incident Command Center, the Liaison Officers and the South Texas VA Fisher House worked seamlessly to transition the Fisher House from an operational family/guest housing option to be a critical part of the local Staff Lodging Program (SLP) to support staff in need of lodging due to their mission-critical status.
The physical transformation itself was a significant undertaking as it required the Fisher House to smoothly transition the remaining families into an offsite hotel and develop a streamlined plan to begin accommodating essential VA staff members who would be treating our Nation’s heroes.
During a four-day period, five Fisher House staff members, three volunteers and one housekeeper worked together as a team to transition the house to accommodate this new mission. To prepare the Fisher House, non-essential furniture was removed from 14 of the 16 rooms, inventoried and stored in the two remaining rooms. All extra beds were broken down (leaving each room with only one bed), decorative items in every room and common areas were removed and all linens were replaced with hospital-grade linen.
Once the transition was complete, the liaison officers, Fisher House manager, and voluntary service established a standard operating procedure and outlined processes for a comprehensive SLP that would accommodate essential staff utilizing five physician sleep rooms at the hospital, 14 rooms at Fisher House, and 11 rooms at the Polytrauma Rehabilitation Transitional Program (PTRP). The team also secured an emergency contract, with tremendous support from contracting for an additional 20 beds with a local hotel for supplemental staff lodging, in the event that demand exceeded the VA staff lodging rooms identified by the team. These efforts were completed in 14 days.
The Fisher House was closed to families/guests effective March 27, 2020 and was officially recommissioned for staff use on April 8, 2020. For the first time ever, the liaison officers, Voluntary Service and the Fisher House stood up the STVHCS Staff Lodging Program to assist in the facility’s COVID-19 response in its very early stages. As one of first VA locations to make this transition, the final Lodging policies and procedures were shared with other Fisher House managers nationally for them to establish their own SLP’s. In doing so, VA’s National Fisher House and Family Hospitality Program Office recognized the STVHCS team for their vision, leadership, and willingness to share with other sites.