This message is for my fellow team members at Baptist Memorial Health Care. This video is being distributed beyond our normal email process so those without desktop speakers at work can hear from me using their phone or other device. It’s important to me to speak as personally as I know how about the unprecedented challenges to our health care system posed by the COVID-19 outbreak. There’s no operating manual for this, and yet our staff has been meeting for weeks to lead by faith and pray for wisdom while we exercise good judgement and make sound decisions on behalf of our organization. It has been nearly a month since we were called to respond to what has become a global pandemic. And I am so proud of all you have done. Now Coronavirus Disease 2019 is poised to take an even bigger toll on our lives―causing schools and businesses to close, forcing groups to cancel events, making people change how and where they worship. It may make you feel uneasy, anxious and overwhelmed. I understand, and I want you to know our leaders understand, too.
I’m aware that you are known as many things. Spouse, parent, child, friend, but at this important time you are also a health care worker, and I firmly believe that we are called for such a time as this. We have been organized for a purpose, and our patients are counting on us to take care of them when they need us most so that they can continue to be spouse and parent and child and neighbor to those that count on them. Please understand that I think of you as heroes, but that doesn’t mean that I am asking you to exercise your super powers in isolation or with blind courage. You’ll know what you’re up against and we will fight this together. You are the most important asset that Baptist has and so I am unapologetically asking you to do your best work right now. And I will do my best work to keep you informed, equipped, united, and effective as we battle this virus and all of the other illnesses and ailments we care for on a daily basis. In addition to all of our other communication vehicles, I plan to film this simple iPhone video Monday, Wednesday, and Friday of every week. It’s not fancy but it will allow me to respond to your questions and keep you as up to date as possible.
So let me get to answering the four most important questions for today: What am I going to do about childcare? Can I work from home? Are we really canceling elective procedures? and What are we doing to keep each other protected?
Let’s start with the hardest first. School closings have created a tremendous hardship for many of you. And we are exploring ways we can help you find appropriate childcare options. Until then your family, friends, neighbors, and trusted childcare facilities are in a much better position than Baptist to keep your kids safe. My prayer is that those that you call upon will all recognize the sacrifices you are making to care for others and will offer their assistance during this time to allow that to occur. We don’t have the license, the staff, the facilities, the bathrooms or places to feed your kids in order to best protect them from this virus. However, if working a different shift is an option for you, talk to your manager about it. Leaders will be working to accommodate more flexible staffing options whenever possible. If you and a co-worker want to work alternate schedules so you can take turns watching each other’s children, we may be able to help you with that, as well. We will continue to think creatively on this one, but for now we must lean on you to meet your unique childcare challenges by utilizing your network of churches, college students who are out during this time, or any other safe means available to you.
As for working from home, I understand the spirit of this question. But unfortunately, that’s just not the business that we are in. We are fortunate to work in an industry that is not experiencing layoffs and shut downs. Those are all around us. Our job is a matter of life and death, and it requires our entire team to show up and be counted upon. Work from home is very difficult to operationalize in our chosen delivery model.
Instead, we’re adopting several strategies that can help you maintain social distancing while working in our offices. Our leaders are working on “thinning out” high-density work areas by finding alternate work spaces, like conference rooms and other empty spaces. You may have the option of working a different shift so all team members aren’t working in the same place at the same time. I also encourage you to hold large meetings using videoconferencing or conference calls rather than in person.
We have also begun taking the temperature of everyone who comes into any of our facilities. Anyone who has a temperature of 100.4⁰ or higher is being asked not to enter our buildings.
Some of our team members are at an increased risk for illness, and our employee health team will work with them to develop the best solution for keeping them healthy while ensuring they can continue to work. We are constantly monitoring this issue, and we will continue to make adjustments to our work from home policy based on the needs of your health and safety. But right now, we believe we can provide a healthy, safe and productive work environment in our facilities. And I sincerely believe there’s no better way to support one another. Times like these should bring us closer together, not further apart.
What we’re doing about elective medical and surgical care is another question many of you are asking.
We are listening to experts’ advice on this issue, but we’re also listening to our partners—particularly our patients and physicians. We are asking them to postpone elective procedures where it is clinically in their best interest, and we are temporarily closing services where the risk to patients and staff outweigh the benefits. These decisions will be made in consultation with our medical staff, and a list of services impacted will be forthcoming. We will work with team members in these areas so that they can be redeployed.
Finally, a number of you have asked what we’re doing to protect you.
One of the most important things we’re doing is ensuring all our team members have the personal protective equipment to treat contagious patients while maintaining their health. We are talking to suppliers, moving equipment from facilities with a surplus to those who need to replenish their stock. We are also following CDC guidelines and advice for how to best preserve our supplies while continuing to provide safe care. This is ongoing work that will continue into the foreseeable future.
Screening and checking the temperatures of all our guests and team members is another way we’re maintaining a healthy work environment. And please don’t forget that you can talk to a CONCERN employee assistance program counselor if you need help dealing with an issue that affects your emotional health or well-being. The number for CONCERN is 901-458-4000.
Additionally, our visitor policies have been modified and cafeteria seating will be for employees only where we ask you to practice social distancing while taking your breaks. And as I said, certain procedures will be canceled so that we deploy our care to the highest priorities first.
Educating our communities has become a big part of what we’re doing to help prevent the spread of this illness. We’re distributing flyers and mirror stickers that emphasize proper hand washing and other tips for staying healthy. Our experts have given numerous news media interviews about COVID-19 to help reduce panic while also emphasizing the importance of following recommended precautions.I encourage you to heed the suggestions the CDC and many experts have given to protect yourself and those with whom you come in contact.
Each of you plays a critical and vital role in our organization. That’s why you’re here. You deserve to know why we make key decisions. And you deserve to hear those reasons from me. If you have any questions about anything — COVID-19-related or not – please email them to me, and I’ll try to address them in future emails and videos.
I’ll be back on Friday with more information that you need to know. Until then, please know that you are loved and appreciated. My stated vision for Baptist is to create an expert system of care in the Mid-South where love abounds so that God can do the impossible. This crisis is another opportunity for us step closer toward the realization of that vision. I’m grateful to be on your team.