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As we’ve seen the number of COVID-19 patients increase over the past week, leaders throughout the organization have been working to increase our overall capacity in anticipation of a surge in patients. These measures include the conversion of rooms to negative airflow and securing additional beds, respirators and other equipment necessary in the care of COVID-19 patients.

Staffing flexibility
Staffing is another important part of our surge planning. By suspending all nonessential surgeries and procedures and moving several services to telehealth, we have freed up some staff from their normal responsibilities. We are now reviewing how we might re-deploy and train these staff members to help in the overall support of this pandemic. In the coming days, staff may be asked to work in areas that fall outside their regular set of activities or responsibilities. We are asking everyone to be both patient and flexible as we work to meet the medical needs of our community. As a reminder, all UW Medicine staff are considered critical in the response to the COVID-19 outbreak. Staff who are unable to meet the essential functions of their job or the role they are deployed to due to a disability, serious health condition, or for any other legally protected reason, should contact Human Resources immediately and follow the applicable UW Medicine policy.

Voluntary vacation rescindment
To help plan for these surge conditions, we are asking all licensed and/or credentialed staff along with Food Services and Environmental Services staff who are actively involved in the COVID-19 response to voluntarily rescind all requested vacation time scheduled in the month of April. All other staff with pre-approved vacation in the month of April, including Shared Services, may also be asked to voluntarily rescind their vacation after discussion with their supervisor due to the need to support UW Medicine’s surge efforts.

Space configuration
Plans are underway to convert patient rooms into negative airflow rooms. We are also modifying the waiting areas of our emergency departments to direct patients with COVID-19 symptoms to negative airflow areas within current waiting rooms or in tents adjacent to the emergency departments. We are also looking at ways to expand non-traditional spaces into areas to process and care for COVID-19 patients. These extreme measures could include the transition of spaces within the hospitals as well as creating additional space with tents adjacent to the hospital locations.

We are in this together
Because we still don’t know the full impact of physical distancing and other measures to slow the spread of this virus, it’s difficult to anticipate how far and flexible we will need to be in order to care for those with COVID-19. It is our sincere hope that we will not have to implement the full extent of our surge planning. However, we feel it’s important that we move forward with clear minds about the potential task at hand.

As always, we want to thank you for your hard work and tireless effort in combating this pandemic.


UW Medicine Leadership