The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has brought about rapid and continuous change, as well as uncertainty across the U.S. and the globe. As the pandemic continues to unfold, we are closely monitoring the situation in collaboration with local Health Department leadership. It is our primary goal to ensure the safety of our patients, learners, and employees while continuing to meet the educational and healthcare needs of those that we serve. We have implemented proactive measures, new policies, and other actions so that we can continue our operations during the pandemic.
WMed Rapid Response Team
On March 11, we activated a Rapid Response Team in response to COVID-19. The team meets at least twice daily to assess the pandemic’s impact on our institution and to coordinate our response to ensure the safety of our patients, employees, and students. The team includes senior leaders, the county medical director, infectious disease physicians, and Occupational Health. Communication is shared with internal stakeholders whenever new decisions are made and at least three times per week. All email communications are also posted on internal portals for reference. The internal infection control portal includes valuable resources, health advisories, links, and information related to the pandemic.
Meeting the Needs of Our Patients
WMed Health, the clinical practice of the medical school, is taking every precaution necessary and following CDC guidelines as well as local, state, and national mandates to be prepared to meet the needs of our patients who are impacted by COVID-19. Our clinics remain open during normal business hours. The call volume has increased as patients are encouraged to call us first if they have any health concerns or symptoms so we can screen them and advise them if they need to come in to be seen and/or tested. Upon arrival to our clinics, patients are screened for symptoms and provided a face mask to where, if applicable. We are limiting visitors and other families from entry into our clinics unless absolutely necessary. Our providers and clinic teams have received additional training and communication related to COVID-19 testing, personal protective equipment, room cleaning, and patient care team hygiene. We have implemented new telehealth visits and phone visits so we can treat patients remotely. Our providers and clinic team are required to do daily monitoring and reporting of staff symptoms of illness.
All WMed-related travel has been prohibited through at least July 1, 2020. Employees and students are required to report their personal travel outside of southwest Michigan at least two days prior to returning to WMed through an online portal so that our Occupation Health nurses can assess the risk and identify indications for isolation or other actions before returning to WMed.
New Work from Home Policy
We implemented a new policy that supports employees to work from home. The policy also includes provisions related to the use of paid time off (PTO) should current PTO banks be depleted due to time off caused by the coronavirus. WMed is requiring employees to work remotely but there are essential functions and patient care roles where this does not apply. We have identified and documented the critical services and work functions that must be maintained in order for WMed to be considered operational. Through employee cross-training and contingency plans we are committed to maintaining our operations should our employees become sick or quarantined because of COVID-19. Now is the time, like no other, when the WMed values of leadership, teamwork, and collaboration come to life. Whenever anyone is at our facilities, all are required to wear surgical or homemade masks to protect themselves and others from the spread of COVID-19.
Educational Program Changes
As of March 24, all of our educational programs are being delivered in a manner so that our students do not need to be present on campus. Faculty are utilizing recorded lectures, Microsoft Teams, Zoom, and other online learning tools. Following guidance issued by the American Association of Medical Colleges (AAMC) and the Liaison Committee on Medical Education (LCME), medical students are not reporting for clinical duties at any clinical sites. During the most trying of times and prior to the "Stay Home, Stay Safe" Executive Order, our medical students were volunteering to help our faculty and staff with childcare, grocery shopping, pharmacy runs, pet care, or any other identified needs during the pandemic.
Visiting Students, Interns, Externs, and Other Learners
All visiting student experiences have been canceled. We are not accepting any new visiting students until further notice. All other learner experiences (interns, externships, etc.) have been suspended.
Following CDC recommendations, we have canceled, postponed or altered the delivery mechanism for all meetings and events that consist of 50 persons or more through the end of June. We have minimized meetings to no more than 10 attendees in-person, and are providing options for attendees to participate via phone or Microsoft Teams. All are encouraged to maintain social distancing of at least 6 feet when meeting in-person.
Visitors to WMed Campus Locations and Facilities
We are discouraging and limiting visitors at all campus locations and facilities. This includes sales representatives, vendors, business associates, family members, friends, and other guests. Vendors who are delivering supplies or providing crucial services are permitted access.
Facility and Personal Hygiene
We implemented extra effort and resources to continuously sanitize and keep all of our facilities clean. Additional hand sanitizer stations have been placed throughout our facilities and all employees have been provided with a personal supply of hand sanitizer.
Region 5 Incident Command Center on W.E. Upjohn M.D. Campus
We are pleased to be able to support regional emergency preparedness planning. The Region 5 Incident Command Center has been established in our educational facility on the W.E. Upjohn M.D. Campus. The Command Center coordinates emergency preparedness for nine southwestern counties: Allegan, Barry, Van Buren, Kalamazoo, Calhoun, Berrien, Cass, St. Joseph, and Branch. The region has 16 hospitals, 9 Medical Control Authorities, 93 EMS agencies, and 7 Health Departments. Anyone interested in volunteering during this public health emergency should go to the MI Volunteer Registry and select SW Michigan 5th District Medical Reserve Corps as an option. There is no obligation to respond but this provides state immunity and workers’ compensation coverage. For specific questions and additional information, contact Rick Winters at 269.615.1366.
A Message from the Dean
In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, Founding Dean Hal B. Jenson, MD, is providing periodic updates and messages of support during these challenging times. Dr. Jenson's most recent message can be viewed below or on WMed's YouTube channel.
These are extraordinary circumstances and challenging times that none of us have seen before. The incredible resilience to meet pressing needs despite a great deal of ambiguity, continued strong dedication to our patients and learners, willingness of our medical students to contribute wherever possible, and the collaborations such as the medical school and Regional 5 all show the spirt of WMed.
The safety and well-being of our WMed community remains our top priority as the coronavirus pandemic continues.
Updated: April 14, 2020