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VA Secretary: Shreveport VA hospital to be opened up to civilians

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Overton Brooks VA Medical Center, Shreveport

SHREVEPORT, La. (KTAL/AP) – Shreveport’s VA hospital will soon be opened up to civilians to help ease the burden on civilian hospitals in Louisiana, according to VA Secretary Robert Wilkie.

Wilkie said during the White House coronavirus task force briefing Sunday evening that the Department of Veterans Affairs will open about 1,500 beds at hospitals in multiple states, including the Overton Brooks VA Medical Center in Shreveport.

“We provide a bridge from the federal government to states and localities during these emergencies,” Wilkie said.

RELATED: April 5 LDH update: 13,010 confirmed COVID-19 cases, 477 deaths reported across the state

Louisiana and the New Orleans area have been an epicenter for the virus, and Gov. John Bel Edwards has repeatedly warned of looming shortages for ventilators and intensive care units. In an interview on CNN Sunday, Edwards said the New Orleans area is expected to exceed its ventilator capacity around April 9 and ICU bed capacity days later.

RELATED: LDH: COVID-19 data models show thousands of new hospitalizations daily without effective social distancing

The state is transforming the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center in New Orleans, a sprawling complex usually used for conventions, into a medical support facility to ease the burden on local hospitals. The convention center-turned-hospital is set to open Monday. It will be used to house those with less severe symptoms, freeing up more space at hospitals to take care of the most critical patients.

Wilkie said Sunday that beds and hospital resources are also being made available for civilians at VA hospitals in New York, New Jersey, Michigan, and Massachusets.

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