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I-Team: VA hospital under scrutiny over handling of COVID-19 |

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I-Team: VA hospital under scrutiny over handling of COVID-19

LAS VEGAS (KLAS) -- Some employees at the VA hospital are not happy with how their employer is handling COVID-19, so they are taking matters into their own hands.

It's a story the I-Team first broke.

Two employees at the hospital have died of the coronavirus. A source says 26 currently have the virus, and a total of 137 have contracted it since March. At least 109 have been cleared from isolation.

Still, according to the union, it is not easy for employees to get tested at the medical center. Employees can only obtain a test if they show signs or symptoms, but as we've reported, the virus can spread through asymptomatic people.

Union leaders like Robert Olson, chief steward of Local AFGE 1224, say COVID-19 testing should be more accessible to employees. Due to this, the union set up its own testing today and over the next two mornings.

Olson says it can help protect employees and patients:

"It's not just for our workers, but it's also for the vets, as well. Because if we don't have the workers here, then we can't take care of the vets, and that's what we're here about."

Olson says they're offering the testing through an outside agency and will do it again in December before Christmas.

"They've earned the right to medical care, and not just the medical care, but good quality medical care. And that's what we deserve as vets, that good quality medical care." he stressed. "And if I can do any part where I make sure we've got people healthy and taken care of, then I'm gonna do it."

You may remember the VA hospital is where Southern Nevada's first known coronavirus patient was hospitalized back in March.

Since then, the union and management have butt heads multiple times over COVID and whether employees are protected enough.

A spokesman for the VA tells the I-Team management is following Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines. Anyone entering the building is screened, including employees, and these safety practices have limited the infection rate of employees to less than 1%. He also says the Southern Nevada VA has provided care to more than 750 COVID-19 patients:

During the pandemic, VA Southern Nevada Healthcare System employees has provided life-saving care to more than 750 COVID-positive patients, while adhering to safety practices that have limited our current COVID employee infection rate to less than one percent."

Charles Ramey, VA Southern Nevada spokesman