Vt. Hospital Reassigns Some Employees to Support COVID-19 Response

While the University of Vermont Medical Center said it did have to furlough a few hundred employees, others were offered jobs in different departments during the hospital's response to the pandemic

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Some Vermont hospital employees are now taking on new jobs while their employer's focus has shifted to the COVID-19 response.

"I'm doing my part," said Amy Marra, who normally works as an office assistant in a clinic at the University of Vermont Medical Center, helping people set appointments then checking them in.

Now, Marra is working at a screening checkpoint inside one of the entrances at UVMMC, making sure any hospital employees coming to work have proper badges and masks on. Marra's nurse counterpart at the checkpoint ensures those folks don't also have a fever.

"When something like this occurs, we all have to be willing to do whatever it takes to make things run and keep things open," Marra told NECN and NBC10 Boston.

Marra is one of 70 UVMMC staffers who suddenly have new clinical or non-clinical responsibilities because of the pandemic, according to medical center leadership.

"The fact our employees could be nimble and flexible with us was really important," said Laurie Gunn, who is in charge of human resources for the medical center.

Gunn said with elective surgeries and non-emergency appointments on pause, a few hundred UVMMC employees have been furloughed or had their hours cut.

However, many have been offered work helping the COVID-19 response in other departments, Gunn noted.

"There may be positions we have that we haven't thought about today, as we navigate this uncharted territory," Gunn added.

Theresa Ferreira is a nurse in the unit that's typically busy with colonoscopies and other scoping procedures.

With those appointments on hold, Ferreira is now supporting ICU staffers with all the protective gear they need to enter the rooms of COVID patients. Her duties include making sure PPE fits properly and answering any equipment questions the front-line workers may have, she explained.

Because the hospital still has limits on visitors, NECN and NBC 10 Boston spoke to Ferreira outdoors, during a break.

"It's an amazing adventure," Ferreira told the news stations. "Making sure the staff are safe is near and dear to my heart."

H.R. said it hopes to bring back the furloughed workers once the virus crisis passes, with the goal of employing as many people as possible.

"Our people are what make this organization what it is, and we want them here and we want to keep them engaged in the work," Gunn said.

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