CORONAVIRUS

University of Iowa hospitals rewards employees amid coronavirus crisis with lump-sum payments

Thermometers are seen at a virus screening checkpoint outside the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics in Iowa City
Thermometers are seen at a virus screening checkpoint outside the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics in Iowa City on Friday, March 13, 2020. Members of the public are asked whether they have been running a temperature, have a cough or have felt ill. They then have their temperature taken and receive a sticker letting staff know they have been screened. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)

As the number of coronavirus cases in Iowa continues to rise, and with it the need for top quality health care and support services, University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics administrators are issuing lump-sum bonuses as a “small token” of their “deep appreciation.”

The $300 payments will go out April 1 to more than 11,000 “clinical and support” employees — from those providing direct patent care to those in support services, including custodians, food staff, nurses and social workers, according to a Friday evening message from UIHC CEO Suresh Gunasekaran.

Although this round of payments doesn’t include faculty, Gunasekaran said, the administration will consider something for those members of the UIHC team “as a next step.”

“Thank you for your efforts each and every day to support our patients, their families, and each other,” Gunasekaran said in the message that came on the eve of Gov. Kim Reynolds’ announcement that Iowa’s tally of coronavirus cases has risen to 68 — with the most, 27, in Johnson County, home to UIHC.

Although UIHC — Iowa’s only academic medical center and its largest health care enterprise — hasn’t said how many COVID-19 patients it has seen or is treating, in a separate message Saturday morning, Gunasekaran counseled staff on what to do if they test positive or contact someone who has.

“With COVID-19 now in our community, you can expect to know someone who has the disease,” Gunasekaran said. “As we continue to respond, it is important to take care of yourself by practicing good hand hygiene and social distancing whenever possible.

“It’s also important to be transparent about any potential exposures.”

UIHC employees who test positive for COVID-19 must notify a supervisor, call the university’s employee health clinic, and stay home and isolated from family members or others in the home.

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That self-isolation, according to Gunasekaran — who pulled the guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Iowa Department of Public Health — should continue until the sick individual has been fever-free for 72 hours and seen improvement in other symptoms and been in isolation for at least seven days since symptoms started.

UIHC employees who have had contact with someone with COVID-19 can keep working — so long as they take their own temperature twice daily and stay alert for a cough. Should they spike a fever of 100.4 or higher or develop a new cough, the employees should stay home, notify supervisors, and call the employee health clinic to decide whether to be tested.

Employees involved in direct patient care and services are allowed to keep working — even if they’ve recently taken a cruise or been to a hard-hit country — so long as they stay asymptomatic. Other UIHC employees who’ve engaged in those high-risk travels should stay home and isolate.

Comments: (319) 339-3158; vanessa.miller@thegazette.com

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