VA fast-tracks North Texas donated medical center

Nurses volunteer for duty at new Garland Medical Center


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Crystal Crews, nurse manager for VA North Texas Health System’s Home Telehealth Program, usually reports to her office at the Dallas VA Medical Center. But with the spread of COVID-19, Crews is now leading a team of nurses at a newly acquired medical facility in Garland.

The 470,000 square foot facility, which closed its doors in 2018, was donated by Baylor, Scott & White. It will eventually serve as an outpatient and specialty care clinic for some of the 184,000 North Texas area Veterans enrolled in VA health care. With the potential for an outpouring of North Texas Veterans needing care for COVID-19, the Garland VA Medical Center will serve as an in-patient overflow unit with a capacity for over 208 beds.

Cami Rutledge, operations administrator, and Dr. Stephen Halla, section chief of ambulatory care, discuss preparation plans to open the facility.

Extra space to take care of critical patients

“We are preparing in case we need to take some load off the main hospital in Dallas and have the extra space to take care of those critical patients,” said Crews.

VA North Texas nurses from various outpatient and specialty clinics attended refresher training as they prepared to care for patients who will receive care at the new facility.

Crews: “These nurses are coming from ambulatory care so we don’t take from the critical care, acute care, and emergency departments areas.”

IT fast-track in a matter of weeks

VA’s Office of Information and Technology fast-tracked retrofitting Garland VA Medical Center in a matter of weeks. The rapid deployment of the facility included completing technology installations and IT equipment provisioning, leveraging VA’s deep relationships with suppliers and vendors to complete installations must faster than normal.

Acquiring and setting up equipment are key to the hospital opening.

Area Manager Odell Brown and his team used an all-hands-on-deck approach to quickly ramp-up operations so VA could begin accepting COVID-19 patients. From supplying equipment like laptops, desktops, and monitors, to outfitting local and wide area network connections and IT equipment, they put the systems in place to support clinical staff.

“Every part of OIT engaged in this effort. They gave us outstanding support and service to establish initial operations at the Garland VAMC. Standing up the hospital within weeks allows us to respond quickly to area needs and care for Veterans infected with COVID-19,” said Territory 2 Director of Operations, Robert J. Finigan.

May Mason

No second thoughts

May Mason (photo above) is a dermatology nurse at Sam Rayburn Memorial Veterans Center in Bonham and said she didn’t give it a second thought when given the opportunity to volunteer and be a part of the initial team to work in the Garland in-patient overflow unit.

“I’m a nurse and I am here to help people. I’ve dealt with infectious diseases before. The coronavirus is another disease that we have to remedy and ensure our patients get the very best care.”

The community spread of COVID-19 has created challenges for all health care professionals. But the virus has also leveraged the ingenuity and tireless dedication of those entrusted to care for those who’ve worn the uniform.

“We know we’re in the middle of a fight. These are our patients and we will do whatever it takes to get them healthy,” said Crews. “Nurses are a family and so are our Veterans.”


Jennifer Roy is a public affairs specialist at the VA North Texas Health Care System. Additional information was provided by the Office of Information and Technology.

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