COVID-19 Update from Dr. Smith: 3/16/20

Each day during the COVID-19 crisis, Dr. Craig Smith, Chair of the Department of Surgery, sends an update to faculty and staff about pandemic response and priorities. Stay up to date with us.

Dear Colleagues,

Today the discussion of “re-deployment” is intensifying across NYP and CU.  The emergence of this challenge reminds us that we are all employed in the delivery of health care.  Our health care systems are at war with a pandemic virus. If your customary weapons are idling (heart surgery, for me) you are expected to keep fighting with whatever weapons you’re capable of working.  This means it’s conceivable the Surgery faculty will be needed in the ICUs, as one example. It also means that no one is on R&R. If COVID-19 accelerates as it did in Italy, there will be no “behind the lines."

Forgive me if that overstates something that’s obvious to all.  From a practical standpoint, it makes sense to begin by figuring out how to re-deploy Surgery people within Surgery functions.  Starting today, Division leadership and all administrators will be working towards that goal. It might mean office staff will cover more than their customary specialty, as one example.  There will be limits to that level of re-deployment, however. MD faculty, in particular, are harder to repurpose entirely within the Department, and the Department cannot object if MD faculty are asked to serve other roles.  The same could apply to residents, NPs, PAs and everyone else.

One purpose of re-deployment is to sustain a workforce devastated by quarantines, illnesses, and now school closures.  Related to that, there appears to be a reassessment of our quarantine policy underway. If I’m interpreting the gestalt of commentary correctly, “exposed” health care workers who are not symptomatic will not be quarantined.  They will keep working. They will not even be tested unless they are unequivocally exposed and symptomatic. But please stay tuned on these points, as more clarity will likely emerge.

Craig R. Smith, MD
Chair, Department of Surgery
Surgeon-in-Chief, NYP/CUIMC


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