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July 17 Employee Huddle

July 24, 2020

Please Note: Time did not allow us to answer every submitted question, so we will get to unanswered questions at next week's KD Huddle. Submit a question now for next week by e-mailing dvolosin@kdhcd.org.

Questions and Answers from the July 24, 2020 Kaweah Health Employee Huddle

Have the new data reporting requirements which require hospitals to change from reporting to CDC to reporting directly to HHS affected Kaweah Health? Does Kaweah expect this to affect our allocation of Remdesivir?

  • We are still reporting to the CDC. We report to the CDC, California Hospital Association, and Health and Human Services. We are now reporting numbers to support the allocation of Remdesivir, but have not stopped any other reporting. We expect Remdesivir supply limitations and demands in other areas of the county to affect the allocation not necessarily the reporting of our data. We work very hard to be accurate with the data and ensure we account for every patient since allocation of resources is dependent on that information.

I was told that my department was considered mandatory dock and required to report to labor pool. It was to my understanding that I would get the same rate of pay while working in labor pool. However, recently I was told by HR that if I am working solely in labor pool I would not be getting my regular hourly rate. Is that true?

  • With this second opening up of the Labor Pool, those placed in positions on a regular basis will be paid according to the duties they are doing in that role. For some, that is a pay decrease and for others, it could be an increase. We might be at this for some time now and want to treat employees equally within the jobs they are performing.

Are you concerned about our PPE supply now that we are experiencing a surge?

  • We are closely watching the PPE supply. We have a daily dashboard telling us how much PPE we have on hand with our current usage and adjust it based on the rising demands. I am concerned about our ability to access PPE as surges continue throughout the State and Country. Supplies are hard to come by and we need to continue to conserve supply so it lasts us throughout the pandemic. We will be posting a special PPE update on Friday night and reposting it next week to share those numbers and review recent changes for everyone.

Please fix the problem with the Siren Grill. It feeds basically the entire Acequia Wing. When the Siren is closed it really impacts our break times. I'm sure an AC unit could be installed so that the heroes who work inside are comfortable in our Valley heat. Otherwise, call up some of the previous food trucks and support local businesses who desperately need the revenue.

  • Lawrence Headley, our Director of Food and Nutrition Services, and his team have been working on extending the hours of the Siren Grill in the afternoon. If the temperatures are 100 degrees or below, they can stay open. Lawrence is also looking to pilot a night shift schedule to supplement the cafeteria and provide support to that group of employees. The food truck idea might be a good solution and we’ll talk about that.

Are the majority of employees getting COVID coming from the COVID floors?

  • 33 of the 264 employees who have been diagnosed with COVID work on floors designated for COVID patients. 23 of these employees were from 3W where we did not have COVID patients initially but found the higher risk of exposure with aerosolizing procedures on patients who initially tested negative for COVID. This led us to the implementation of the special precautions we take with all patients receiving aerosolizing procedures. We implemented those special precautions on May 27th and only had three of the 23 cases from 3W occur after they were implemented.

Besides masking and social distancing is there anything else we can be doing to keep from getting the virus?

  • Honestly, the only other things are handwashing and limiting contact with people unnecessarily. In patient rooms or during patient visits to the clinics, try to minimize time in rooms and in close proximity when possible. Use of the face shields will also decrease exposures so please make sure you are using those when doing patient care or having contact with patients. If you choose to leave the face shield on all the time that is acceptable too. Other than that, make sure you are resting, staying active and caring for yourself in case you do contract the virus. Then you are not worn down and your body is ready to fight the virus.

Are the lounges throughout the hospital cleaned routinely?

  • Yes, they are cleaned daily and are working on leaving spray and cloths for people to clean the area themselves.

Are you concerned with our staffing levels now that we are experiencing a surge?

  • Yes, we want to provide staffing appropriate to the work and patient care, so our leaders are working closely with our recruitment team, hiring and onboarding. Since March 1st, our hiring exceeds our turnover, but of course we have to orient and train new staff. We have hired 276 new employees:
    • 93 RN’s, plus
    • An additional 45 awaiting a start date, plus
    • 25 internal RN transfers for recent graduates from their nursing program
    • 42 RN travelers and 22 pending
    • 13 nursing students have been hired to work as sitters, and
    • 30 Student Nurse Interns pending start
  • The leaves of absence are fluctuating and definitely impacting our ability to staff (regular leaves, COVID, and quarantines).

Are entrances to the hospital still separated for staff and visitors such as the surgery center door and during what hours? I have noticed some staff using this door without escorting patients.

  • Yes, employees are still expected to use the employee entrances. We will remind the screeners to redirect people to those entrances to allow for greater control at the visitor and patient entrances.

Are any patient/visitor parking areas still open for staff use and do the 3 hour limits apply, such as at the surface lot on W. Acequia?

  • Yes, there are spots in the patient/visitor areas on the far side of the Acequia entrance lot and in the lot right off Acequia across from Floral St. Anywhere 3 hour limits are posted should be adhered to.

If at any point during our current fiscal year, the hospital become profitable or shows positive gains would the ET reconsider reinstating PFP raises and back pay for those raises?

  • Yes, if the financials were to turn, we would. We also have to consider impacts on benefits and the 401k match.

How accurate are Kaweah Health’s test kits?

  • Our test kits have been quality controlled extensively by the manufacturer and in our own lab here at Kaweah Health. The online reports are hard to validate and research authenticity but there have not been issues with the test kits and platforms we use with positive results from an unused swab. Also, Kaweah Health test kits are primarily used only for patients or health care team members with symptoms so clinically they have symptoms to support the diagnosis.

If a patient is positive, and are quarantined by the County, who enforces that?

  • A quarantine has to be followed by an individual. If they get word of someone not quarantining and endangering others they can be followed up with. They are given instructions. There are activities they can do to meet physiological needs.

If the imaging center has a patient to come in who has COVID, are we allowed to see them or should we send them home?

  • It depends on the case. Are they still on quarantine, were they COVID positive but the County deemed them fully recovered? If they come in, get the manager and ordering doctor and decide if they can be deferred another week or so.

Are staff members notified if a co-worker possibly has COVID?

  • Yes, but the employee is not identified. They will be notified to watch for symptoms.

Will the imaging department be seeing any hazard pay for picking up extra shifts due to staff shortages caused by COVID related issues?

  • While we are not providing Hazard pay, in areas of very short staffing, we are providing an Extra Shift Bonus. I’ll follow up with Renee Lauck, the Director of Imaging Services, on concerns and staffing challenges.

If people receive the COVID vaccine when it’s available will they still be required to wear a mask? If we choose not to get the vaccine would we continue to wear a mask?

  • I hope a vaccine will give us a reliable protection against contracting COVID-19 or provide our systems with enough extra immunity support to slow the spread. I do anticipate if people do not get the vaccine we will still need to have them wear masks to prevent spread. Even with the vaccine we will be following the recommendations of the CDC on best protection methods for our team members and patients.

Can we add fogging on top of our cleaning/disinfection process?

  • This is a great process for cleaning in hard to reach places. Our current cleaning and disinfecting processes are aligned with the CDC and EPA guidelines. Fogging is not recommended by the CDC for cleaning inpatient rooms or hospital areas but we keep watching for updates to the cleaning recommendations.

Impact of Distance Learning for Schools:
If I did not take a LOA earlier this year will I qualify for one now?

  • Employees may request a 30-day Personal Leave up to a maximum of 90 days. However, this is not guaranteed. An employee’s previous leaves will be considered when approving or denying a request for a Personal Leave of Absence. During this period your position is not protected.
  • Will there be any financial assistance for parents who will not be working due to needing to school their kids at home.
  • Employees may be able to apply for Unemployment Insurance Benefits.

What kind of LOA would be available to me?

  • Personal leave of absence.

Will benefits be covered by KD during LOA?

  • For a furlough (temporary layoff), the benefits remain the same for a maximum of 90 days in a qualified period. This means that if you had a previous furlough, returned to work and have a second furlough, benefits during these periods will not exceed 90 days combined. Your Leave of Absence Specialist will review your eligibility.

Since so many employees are likely to be affected by delayed reopening of schools does Kaweah Health anticipate any resources to be made available to parents and/or students in terms of increased childcare, help with distance learning, etc.?

  • Kathryn Price, our Director of Kaweah Kids has received approval from licensing to keep existing children past age 6. Some of our parents will benefit from that. She is also studying the opportunity to have a cohort of children (ages 6-11) with a Kaweah Kids teacher to assist in learning. We believe we have the staff; we need to ensure adequate and appropriate space. There would likely be a cost to employees and we’re still evaluating that.
  • Otherwise, each leader is looking at the ability to flex, change the length of shifts and/or days of the week with their teams. We’ve been communicating on this topic for a few weeks now with more to come.


Is there someone to email to get on a list to participate if a program was created?

  • Yes, please email Dianne Cox. (dcox@kdhcd.org) We can start to create a list of staff who would need it.

When are we expecting the thermometers to come in?

  • We are expecting to get all the thermometers in the next week and they will be delivered to the departments that requested them.

Is Kaweah sending letters with positive diagnosis to people who have not yet been tested?

  • We do not send letters telling patients they are positive. The doctor’s office will call and give results verbally to that patient over the phone. If you have the letter please send it to us. That is not coming from Kaweah Health.

Is it true that we should not go to the Emergency Department if we want to be tested for COVID?

  • Our Emergency Department is not a COVID testing site. We have to reserve our hospital for patients and people who need medical attention. If you are seeking a COVID test – try one of these options:
  • Call your physician
  • Call Kaweah Health’s Hotline at 559-624-4110
  • Call 211
  • Visit Tulare County Health and Human Services for a list of testing sites in Tulare County

Is it true that Family Healthcare and other clinic sites are sending patients to our Emergency Department for testing? How do we stop them from continuing to do that?

  • Yes, I have heard that it true. We are a part of a coalition throughout the County and it meets on a routine basis. We will try to encourage them to stop doing that through the coalition.

What are the age ranges of our hospitalized patients? Are they trending younger than previously?

  • Out of the 81 COVID positive cases at Kaweah Health today, there is one case between ages 5-17; five cases between ages 18-34; 20 cases between ages 35 – 49; seven cases between ages of 50-59; seven cases between ages of 60-64; 13 cases between ages of 65-69; 18 cases between ages 70-74; four between 75-79; and six that are 80 and above.

How is the hospital doing financially?

  • When we started allowing surgeries to come back May 18th, an increase in revenue came in through June. Although we performed a record number of surgeries in that month, we still posted a $3 million operating loss for June. We ended the fiscal year with a $32 million operating loss. We received an additional $14.1 million in total stimulus funds, which took our operating loss to $18 million for the year.