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Caregiver Employer: A Winning Risk Team's take on COVID-19

June 24, 2020 /PRNewswire/ —Frontline work battling the novel coronavirus is tough, but imagine having to deal with the COVID-19 crisis as both an employer and a health care provider.

That’s been the work this year of such companies as Northwell Health, the largest health care provider and private employer in New York State, and one of the winners of NU Property & Casualty’s 2019 Excellence in Workers’ Compensation Risk Management Award. (Click here for details about the 2020 awards program; nominations are being accepted through June 30).

We recently connected with Joseph Molloy, vice president of workforce safety at Northwell Health, to hear more about how the company has fared during the pandemic.

PC360: How has Northwell Health risen to the challenge of managing workers’ compensation risk in 2020?

Molloy: 2020 has presented some extraordinary challenges for the Workforce Safety Team at Northwell Health. As the largest private employer in New York with 77,000 employees, managing safety and workers’ compensation is a herculean task.

Northwell Health has treated more COVID-19 patients than any other hospital system in the country. As guidance from the state health department as well as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention changed on nearly an hourly basis, we had to be nimble and responsive. We had thousands of employees exposed. Many were put on 14-day self-quarantine furloughs. Some converted and contracted the illness.

From the beginning, our intention was to continue our mission of advocacy for our employees, making the assumption going in that anyone who did contract the disease did so as a result of work. This was a bold step as community exposures were rampant, but key in showing our support for our employees who were on the front lines.

We have been recording and investigating more than 4,400 (at last count) incidents related to COVID-19, complicated because some were reported to Workforce Safety, some through HR, and some through our Employee Health Services.

Further, we did have fatalities. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) was overwhelmed with the volume, and some of our cases were handled in remote locations, complicating the investigation and resolution.

PC360: Are there any particular tools that helped Northwell Health manage the crisis?

Molloy: We implemented Xybion’s Emidence platform, which has been key in ensuring rapid and appropriate response. Northwell, as an organization, stood behind all of our employees, especially those exposed. Workforce Safety has been working 7 days a week since the beginning of March. While this was going on, some of the Workforce Safety team was redeployed to help care for the COVID-19 patients, putting an additional burden on the remaining members of the team. I couldn’t be more proud of the dedication and efforts of the entire team.

PC360: What are likely to be the key workers’ comp risk management lessons and/or takeaways from this year?

Molloy: Key lessons learned are definitely centered around exposures.

While Northwell was well-prepared (as a health care provider, we have exposures to things like flu, measles, mumps, rubella, TB, Ebola and now COVID-19,) many colleagues at other companies reached out for suggestions on how we were handling claims (both the surge and the relation to exposure). Reviewing contracts for direct and secondary risk, reinforcing communication and operations with your TPA, and establishing appropriate emergency preparedness are critical in the “new normal” operations arena.

Moreover, with so many employees working remotely, it’s important to ensure that you have appropriate policies and procedures to handle remote operations and at-home risks. To conclude, being prepared, maintaining flexibility, and communicating to your organization are critical to successfully administering worker’s comp in this environment.

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