The past several weeks have changed everything for all of us—from the way we live and socialize, to the way we work. Burke is not immune to the challenges COVID-19 has presented. While we continue to function as a post-acute rehabilitation hospital, we have made several changes to the way we operate in order to best deal with this global health crisis.
Establishing an Incident Command Center
The first change Burke initiated was the establishment of an incident command center that is made up of the hospital’s senior administration team. This incident command team meets twice daily, seven days a week to ensure every critical element of the hospital is able to function at its highest levels.
The incident command meetings are held with safety in mind. Half the team meets in a large conference room where social distancing standards are met while the other half calls in via video conference. The team discusses the availability of patient beds, the hospital’s inventory of personal protective equipment (N95 masks, surgical masks, gowns, gloves, etc.), any staffing challenges, program closures and construction needs.
Burke’s COVID Operating Plan
The COVID-19 crisis required Burke to make significant changes to our day-to-day operations. As the pandemic has progressed, the hospital shut down most of its outpatient therapy operations. As of April 10, all outpatient locations except for our White Plains (Main Campus) site are closed. Only critical therapy is being offered. We do, however, offer telehealth appointments for neuropsychology and speech therapy patients. Burke also closed the Adult Fitness Center until further notice.
As we reduced our outpatient operations, we increased our capacity to care for patients on an inpatient basis. In response to Governor Cuomo, Burke converted two of its therapy gyms into additional patient bed space. The first of these surge wards opened up on April 4th and allowed Burke to bring in more recovering patients and helped to ease the burden on the acute care hospitals in the area.
In order to keep the patients moving from the acute care hospitals to Burke, we have also expedited the referral process. Once one of our physicians approves a referral, our screening department completes one of two templates depending on if the patient is here for rehabilitation, or if they are here as a medical/surgical patient. They are then registered in our electronic medical records system and assigned a bed. In this new admissions process, we are verifying a patient’s insurance, but we have eliminated the need for an authorization in an effort to speed things along.
As patients are admitted, they are placed in beds and rooms based on gender, COVID status and if they require oxygen or a negative pressure room.
Protecting our Staff
The health and safety of our patient population and staff has been the highest priority throughout this pandemic. First, we have strictly adhered to the guidelines set forth by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). In addition to this, we have implemented a safety plan that includes taking the temperature of every employee before they report to work for their shift. Our human resources department is also tracking all of the employees who call out for their shift and if it is COVID-related.
When a staff member is exposed to someone who has tested COVID positive, we adhere to the guidelines and protocols recommended by the CDC and New York State Department of Health.
Every Burke employee is provided a mask at the beginning of their shift. Those who are interacting with patients are provided a new N95 mask each day while employees who work in an administrative role are provided new surgical masks each day.
Lastly, we have suspended all patient visitation during the pandemic with the exception of medically necessary family training and discharge planning visits.
Redeploying the Workforce
The hospital’s increased patient capacity has called for different staffing needs. Burke has met this need by retraining and redeploying staff from our outpatient divisions whose sites were closed. Non-clinical staff were retrained to take temperatures, distribute masks and help clean and sterilize the facilities. Staff with more clinical training have been retrained to assist with nursing teams to help manage the additional patient load.
Maintaining Staff Morale
These times are trying for everyone, including the staff at Burke. Every effort is being made to boost the spirits of the employees on the front lines of this pandemic. The hospital has made all meals in the cafeteria free for employees throughout the month of April. In addition to this, the hospital has received several generous donations of meals to be distributed throughout the hospital.
Burke has also opened up the Marsal Caregiver center to all employees who may be looking for a place to catch their breath or to grab a quick snack.
The COVID-19 pandemic may have changed the way we work, but it has not changed the high quality, compassionate care we provide to our patients and to the community.
Thank you for all of your support.