Dear Friends, Colleagues, Patients and Clients:
In these uncertain times, when the need for information, thoughtful, decisive action and access to care and services are more critical than ever, it’s important to know where we can turn. Aunt Martha’s wants to be a resource to our patients, our clients, our partners, our stakeholders, and our communities during this difficult time. And, as always, we are here to help.
Like you, over the course of the past week we have spent a lot of time ensuring we are at the forefront of understanding how this worldwide pandemic has changed and will continue to change the ways in which we live, work, and ultimately fulfill the mission of our organization. As the only Federally Qualified Health Center in Illinois that is also a licensed Child Welfare Agency, we understand that we all have a vital role to play in the safety net for the communities we serve. Rest assured that while our methods to fulfill that mission might change in this new reality, Aunt Martha’s will never always go above and beyond to be ensure we are there when and where we are needed.
That is why over the past week, we’ve engaged in comprehensive contingency planning and taken proactive steps to ensure the continued safety of our employees, our patients and our clients. We’ve worked tirelessly to prepare our agency to respond to the challenges that lie ahead – to ensure continued access to essential health care and support services for our patients and our communities at large.
Aunt Martha’s Continuity of Operations Plan
On March 19, our COVID-19 Response Team finalized the Agency’s Continuity of Operations Plan (or COOP), which exhaustively details the policies and processes we have put in place for each business unit of Aunt Martha’s in order to ensure that those who rely on the essential services we provide, are able to continue receiving those services during the COVID-19 crisis. Of course not every aspect of our COOP applies to every audience, but as an Agency that at its heart is focused on providing fully integrated, value-based care, many of the efforts detailed in our plan affect multiple, if not all, business units of Aunt Martha’s.
Within Aunt Martha’s Continuity of Operations Plan, which has already been shared with key stakeholders, the COVID-19 Response Team provides information related to:
- Objectives and Applicability
- Mission Essential Functions
- COOP Planning Responsibilities
- COOP Plan Maintenance
- Delegation of Authority
- Disease Containment (Pandemic/Outbreak)
- Scope Planning Assumptions
- Leadership & Administration Resources
- Test, Training, and Exercises
- Implementing Instructions
- Operational Checklist
Aunt Martha’s Telehealth Expansion
Crucial to the development of the COOP was the performance of a capacity analysis and projection for our health care capacity over the next 8 ½ months, which took into account several assumptions, including that the continued spread of COVID-19 could impact our ability to maintain adequate health center staffing, which could result in as much as 20% of our health center staff being affected at any one time; that we were required to suspend all non-emergent dental services until at least March 31, 2020; and that the COVID-19 crisis will continue for months, not weeks.
Aunt Martha’s knew that we must leverage our rich history of providing high quality, integrated telemedicine services for more than thirteen (13) years through the provision of tele-psychiatry services in multiple locations throughout the state of Illinois as well as our belief that the state and federal government would loosen restrictions on telemedicine in general, which they subsequently did. Our capacity analysis and projection ultimately resulted in not only maintaining the current capacity for health care services already offered by Aunt Martha’s, but a projected increase in capacity of 5-7% across the network.
Also crucial to the development of our COOP was the feedback gathered in an employee survey that included responses from more than 75% of our 800+ employees. Our ability to develop such a thorough plan and to implement it in its entirety is due to the passion and commitment of our staff – our staff who are on the front lines of the fight against COVID-19.
Aunt Martha’s Internal Heroes
The work performed by the leadership at Aunt Martha’s cannot succeed without the help of the front-line staff. They are the backbone of this organization and are to us and our patients, the true heroes. There are no words that can be said that would fully convey our sincere and deep appreciation for the work that they do. In these time, they are required to juggle work and home life in the face of tremendous challenges and uncertainties.
We recognize that like us, our front-line staff have families, babies and others they must care for. Yet in the face of these other commitments and despite their personal family situations, they show up every single day to help others, others like you and me. They do this not because it makes their lives easier because it no doubt does not, rather they do it because they care. They care about you, they care about their community and they care about making a difference. While others may think that heroes are elusive, we know that heroes are among us at every clinic and at every office where Aunt Martha’s is offering services.