April 24, 2020

Dr. Jeff Balser about plans to resume services at VUMC

Let’s start today with a topic that I know is top-of-mind: When and — just as important — how will we reopen?

Hi, everyone.

Let’s start today with a topic that I know is top-of-mind: When and — just as important — how will we reopen?

Of course, VUMC never closed — in fact, given the vital role we play for patients across Tennessee with a vast array of urgent and emergency conditions, at least half of our inpatient beds are still filled with patients not infected with COVID-19.

Jeff Balser, MD, PhD

However, we did achieve some monumental shifts in our operations. We rescheduled thousands of clinic appointments to telehealth and we postponed procedures and surgeries that were not urgent. Many of you are now working from home, and some of you have taken on new responsibilities to help us build surge capacity.

In the end, everyone has felt the impact of this pandemic on VUMC. I’m proud — and I’m grateful — for how you have risen to the challenge.

As I mentioned last week, we’ve been experiencing a stable number of COVID-19 cases at VUMC and in Davidson County for a few weeks, and during that time we’ve been working closely with city and state officials on careful plans to re-engage activities. And as you probably saw, yesterday Mayor Cooper released a framework to safely reopen Nashville.

You’ll be hearing much more about our reopening plans at VUMC in the coming days from your supervisor, department or division leader, but I’d like to make a few general points.

First, the initial phase of reopening is a careful, measured step, and will be closely monitored for increases in infection rates. We may see some increase in COVID-19 cases, but we are very focused on avoiding a surge that could overwhelm our resources.

As the city enters an initial phase, VUMC will also be restarting certain activities, and like Nashville, our first steps will be careful and measured. For example, we will be restarting so-called “elective,” non-urgent surgeries and procedures for patients at low risk for complications.

As we do this, our No. 1 priority is safety — your safety and the safety of our patients. So, you’ll see that we are putting additional protocols in place. For example, in addition to checking temperatures of all patients and employees upon arrival at VUMC facilities, we will also be contacting outpatients before their clinic visits to ensure they are not developing symptoms of COVID-19.

We all have legitimate fears and uncertainties with engaging even limited activities amid a worldwide pandemic. Our best antidote is to support one another and to communicate about our concerns — early and often.

And be reassured, at Vanderbilt we are all part of something strong and enduring, serving this community for nearly 150 years through the most difficult times our nation has seen.

Together, we will get through this. Our community and our patients need us now more than ever

Thank you for all that you do. We’ll talk again soon.