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As many as 16 million Americans have lost their jobs over the last three weeks, and frontline health care workers saw pay cuts and benefits slashed while they put their personal health at risk to take care of the nation’s sickened novel coronavirus patients.
But in Texas, where there have been over 11,400 confirmed cases of COVID-19, one hospital is working to ensure that its employees who have been sidelined by canceled surgeries and forced to take paid time off are at least being partially compensated for it.
“What our CEO Mark Wallace has done, is a few days ago, sent out an email telling everybody about how appreciative, of course, we are of the work they are doing – but also understanding the stress they are under, so over 10,000 employees were offered a $500 bonus, and part-time employees were offered a $250 bonus,” MaryJo Andre, chief nursing officer at Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston, told Fox News.
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Andre said that the hospital realizes that the money isn’t necessarily going to change anyone’s life, but it helps to show staff that they are appreciated during this trying time.
“For us, it’s not a difficult thing – we’ve been through many other incidents, nothing like this pandemic, but we’ve had a similar thing in Harvey and in other times when we’re really asking our employees to go above and beyond,” Andre said, adding that the initiative extends beyond the nurses and physicians and includes environmental care workers and food service people who support the caregivers.
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“They’re just as critical as everybody else so this really involved all of our frontline employees,” she said.
Andre said that the hospital is currently working with other Texas Medical Center hospitals on different initiatives to support employees in other ways, including supplemental programs to extend paid time off. She said she is hopeful that other employers around the country who are struggling to maintain their workforce will formulate similar supportive initiatives to keep them engaged.
“This has been an unprecedented event,” she said. “We’re aware of that, and we’re doing everything that we can to take care of our patients and our staff – our people.”
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As far as what the scene on the ground looks like, Andre said it’s been a lot of preparing and collaborating with other centers who have already seen a surge in COVID-19 cases.
“It’s been challenging,” she said. “We’ve had our full command center open for greater than 30 days.”
Andre said that the hospital has a “very strong emergency management preparedness plan,” and has been monitoring the amount of personal protective equipment (PPE) available to staff for safety.
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“I think one of the things that people need to understand is that even here at the hospital we are practicing the basics,” she said “We are doing social distancing, we are doing the hand hygiene, we are doing the same things that they need to do in their homes. Many of them need to stay at home and not go anywhere. As caregivers and people who are running command centers, we need to be here and we’re doing that in the safest way possible.”
Following the guidelines being set forth by public and local health officials will also help stop the spread of coronavirus “in a lot quicker fashion,” she said.