We are now into our third week of coronavirus. I am proud of what we are achieving and grateful for every one of you as we rise to this challenge.
The hospital Incident Command Center (ICC) continues to coordinate all COVID-19 activities. We have a team of experienced staff from across all hospital functions to ensure that our response is well managed and resourced. Each team has designated its “five-deep” structure, meaning that we have five people in each area, with each person playing a role in a week-by-week command center schedule. This is a marathon, not a sprint, so we are preparing for the weeks and months ahead. Across all areas of operations, it’s important that we look after ourselves and our co-workers, so that we can care for our patients.
Preparations are well underway for the increase in critical care patients we expect in the coming weeks. Sadly, we know that the situation will get worse, before it gets better. There is remarkable work being done in so many areas, and I wanted to share a few items to highlight the excellence and innovation we are seeing every day.
· We have developed a surge plan to expand our Intensive Care Unit (ICU) capacity. Cabling is underway, we’re installing monitors and ventilators, all of which will grow our ICU capacity to over 100 beds. Preparations to safely operationalize this, such as staff training and support, are also underway.
· We have set up a labor pool process, to determine where we need staff for the forthcoming demand, and to re-deploy employees to the areas of greatest need.
· Personal protective equipment (PPE) is a major priority to safeguard the health of staff. We do not have an imminent shortage of masks and gowns at this time and. However, we must be good stewards of this essential resource. We are looking at innovative ways to safely re-process and re-use PPE, and these decisions are being informed not only by our own infectious disease experts, but experts from the CDC, OSHA and other key agencies.
· Telehealth is up and running, and, where possible, most visits are now converting to phone appointments for the convenience, and wellbeing of our clinicians and patients. We are working to move to more video televisits.
· Denver Health launched its own COVID-19 testing less than one week ago and we’re already exploring ways to expand and improve.
· We’ve seen a great response from staff to participate in our COVID-19 Employee Testing Survey. The survey helps us understand who may have been exposed and prioritize testing for staff most in need.
· The Denver Health Nurse Line has experience a huge increase in calls. They have hired more staff and continue to work relentlessly, responding to up to 1,600 calls per day, which is about eight times the typical volume.
· We will run our first employee blood drive on Friday, which is already fully booked, but we have two more events scheduled on April 3 and 10.
This situation continues to bring out the best in people. Every day, I see and hear examples of how our values are shining through in the work we do. We are also seeing our community rally around Denver Health. I continue to advocate for Denver Health in the community – among partner organizations, the business sector and with donors. The response has been meaningful and heartwarming, with donations of PPE, food for our staff, and financial support.
Denver Health has been caring for our community for 160 years, and we plan to be here for generations to come. Together, we can all make a difference.
Thank you for everything you do.
Robin D. Wittenstein, Ed.D., FACHE
Chief Executive Officer