A 6 - Point Plan for the future of IDVA
1. Restructure senior leadership
To ensure senior leadership can best manage our dedicated staff, our roles and chain of command must be clearly structured and defined. Our new Chief of Staff role is focusing on staff management while the Senior Home Administrator will provide overarching leadership on clinical and administrative decisions at the homes in coordination with the Director and Assistant Director. Central to this restructuring is prioritizing internal communication and senior leadership visibility in everything we do. I plan to be a consistent presence in all our veterans' homes, hearing directly from staff on the ground, and I will expect the same from my senior team.
2. Improve culture and communication
Communication in our department is a two-way street. In the same way I have been a presence at our homes communicating with staff, I want staff at any level of the department to feel comfortable bringing their suggestions or concerns to me and my senior team. A simple and important channel of communication is email, which we are providing every member of our staff. This will allow leadership to disseminate information to all staff at the same time and will allow staff to better communicate with leadership and each other. Additionally, we are adding a mass text message capability to better inform our staff of an emergency.
3. Prioritize infection control
Infection control has been a consistent challenge for veterans' homes here in Illinois and those across the country. This is a top priority and constant focus in our work going forward, not just when there's a crisis, but in everything we do. To immediately begin this work, we are establishing Infection Preventionist positions at each home as well as an Infection Control Director to oversee those positions and ensure consistency across the homes. Each home will have an Infection Control Committee consisting of the Infection Control Director, Infection Preventionist, staff and an administrator. This committee will focus on infection control and infection control only. This will begin with COVID-19 before transitioning to broader infection control work at all our homes.
4. Hire experts in key roles
We quickly filled key positions including the La Salle Home Administrator, Chief of Staff, Women's Veterans Senior Manager, and Public Information Officer. We are currently assessing a field of candidates for the Senior Homes Administrator. I am also working closely with the Illinois Department of Public Health and our Medical Directors to fill the department's need for consistent guidance and policies related to caring for our veterans' medical needs. It is imperative these roles are filled with individuals with strong backgrounds and expertise who can bring best practices to our department.
5. Implement clear plans and policies
In my first several months, we have implemented new policies for overall infection prevention as well as COVID-19 policies related to prevention, testing, PPE, masking, cleaning and disinfection, staff health checks, and hand hygiene. We are thoroughly reviewing the department's policies in consultation with senior staff and those on the frontlines at our homes to determine additional areas where clearer policies are needed. I am applying tried and true methods from my previous experience and have begun testing new programs and procedures in our home. Essential to this is staff training. All staff must receive quality training on a regular basis on both new and existing policies.
6. Enhance department technology
It is imperative that we can monitor and contact trace infections at our veterans' homes, especially given the vulnerable populations we care for. I hope to bring video technology, like what is used at Walter Reed and the Ohio Veterans' homes I previously oversaw, to allow for monitoring of communal areas. This will help better ensure safety and security in our homes and allow experts to trace diseases and more effectively manage an infection.