Description of a Multi-faceted COVID-19 Pandemic Physician Workforce Plan at a Multi-site Academic Health System.

Affiliation

Pendharkar SR(1)(2)(3), Minty E(4)(5), Shukalek CB(4)(5), Kerr B(4), MacMullan P(4), Lail P(4), Cheema K(4), Alimohamed N(4), Allen T(6), Vlasschaert MEO(4), Kachra R(4)(6), Ma IWY(4)(7), Johannson KA(4)(7)(5), Gibson PS(4), Elliott MJ(4)(5), Papini A(4), Smith S(6), Lemaire J(4), Ruzycki SM(4)(7), Hunter A(4), Desjardins-Kallar W(4), Schaefer JP(4), Zarnke KB(4)(5), Bharwani A(4)(5), Fabreau GE(4)(7)(5).
Author information:
(1)Department of Medicine, Cumming School of Medicine, University of Calgary, Foothills Medical Centre - North Tower, Calgary, AB, Canada. [Email]
(2)Department of Community Health Sciences, Cumming School of Medicine, University of Calgary, Calgary, AB, Canada. [Email]
(3)O'Brien Institute for Public Health, Cumming School of Medicine, University of Calgary, Calgary, AB, Canada. [Email]
(4)Department of Medicine, Cumming School of Medicine, University of Calgary, Foothills Medical Centre - North Tower, Calgary, AB, Canada.
(5)O'Brien Institute for Public Health, Cumming School of Medicine, University of Calgary, Calgary, AB, Canada.
(6)Cumming School of Medicine, University of Calgary, Health Sciences Centre, Calgary, AB, Canada.
(7)Department of Community Health Sciences, Cumming School of Medicine, University of Calgary, Calgary, AB, Canada.

Abstract

BACKGROUND: The evolving COVID-19 pandemic has and continues to present a threat to health system capacity. Rapidly expanding an existing acute care physician workforce is critical to pandemic response planning in large urban academic health systems. INTERVENTION: The Medical Emergency-Pandemic Operations Command (MEOC)-a multi-specialty team of physicians, operational leaders, and support staff within an academic Department of Medicine in Calgary, Canada-partnered with its provincial health system to rapidly develop a comprehensive, scalable pandemic physician workforce plan for non-ventilated inpatients with COVID-19 across multiple hospitals. The MEOC Pandemic Plan comprised seven components, each with unique structure and processes. METHODS: In this manuscript, we describe MEOC's Pandemic Plan that was designed and implemented from March to May 2020 and re-escalated in October 2020. We report on the plan's structure and process, early implementation outcomes, and unforeseen challenges. Data sources included MEOC documents, health system, public health, and physician engagement implementation data. KEY RESULTS: From March 5 to October 26, 2020, 427 patients were admitted to COVID-19 units in Calgary hospitals. In the initial implementation period (March-May 2020), MEOC communications reached over 2500 physicians, leading to 1446 physicians volunteering to provide care on COVID-19 units. Of these, 234 physicians signed up for hospital shifts, and 227 physicians received in-person personal protective equipment simulation training. Ninety-three physicians were deployed on COVID-19 units at four large acute care hospitals. The resurgence of cases in September 2020 has prompted re-escalation including re-activation of COVID-19 units. CONCLUSIONS: MEOC leveraged an academic health system partnership to rapidly design, implement, and refine a comprehensive, scalable COVID-19 acute care physician workforce plan whose components are readily applicable across jurisdictions or healthcare crises. This description may guide other institutions responding to COVID-19 and future health emergencies.