(Employee Health Services (EHS) team swabbing mouth of individuals while staying inside vehicle to test for COVID-19. Team securing sample in biohazard bags to transfer to testing laboratory for results. Photo by Richard Carrasco III)

Keck Medicine of USC and USC have launched a comprehensive program to ease the job stress that Keck Medicine health care workers are experiencing during the coronavirus pandemic. The Care for the Caregiver program offers free housing, comfort amenities and mental health support to high-risk staff employed by Keck Medicine, including employees at USC Verdugo Hills Hospital.

The program is available to staff who have had direct exposure to COVID-19 and wish to self-quarantine away from home or safeguard family members. Additionally, housing is available for workers needing a respite. Housing may include accommodations on the Health Sciences Campus, the USC Hotel or in corporate housing downtown.

“Our health care workers are on the frontline of the COVID-19 pandemic, and their personal safety, and that of their loved ones, is our number one priority,” said Tammy Capretta, RN, MPH, chief transformation and risk officer for Keck Medicine. “We have been humbled by their commitment and dedication to our patients, and we want to do everything we can to help ease any burdens they are facing.”

Staff will also have access to sessions over the phone or through virtual visits as well as access to a video support group with a live therapist to promote well-being and emotional support. Sixty therapists are available for consultations, with 120 more available as needed.

“Our health care providers are working under taxing conditions and dealing with anxiety, sadness and other painful emotions as they face an unprecedented health crisis,” said Steven Siegel, MD, PhD, Keck Medicine psychiatrist and chair of the department of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the Keck School of Medicine of USC. “It’s crucial for their well-being that they have access to free professional mental health care during this time.”

Those in the program will also have access to meals, groceries, toiletries and other essential and comfort items to help them recover and unwind.

The Care for the Caregiver program will continue to roll out more amenities for staff in the upcoming weeks.

Keck Medicine will also be inviting the community to donate self-care items to the health care workers. Those interested in donating can check the Keck Medicine website for information as it becomes available.

— By Alison Rainey