A new year with exciting new opportunities

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As we look forward to 2021, the phrase, “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts,” has, perhaps, never applied more perfectly. As Dr. Calhoun shared in his message to us all yesterday, The University of Texas System Board of Regents has unanimously approved joining The University of Texas Health Science Center at Tyler (UTHSCT) with The University of Texas at Tyler (UT Tyler). Looking back over all that these two great institutions have accomplished over the past decades, for the most part working individually, I’ve never been more excited about what the future holds. Just as exciting is the fact that the Regents have unanimously voted to name Dr. Calhoun president of the newly united UT Tyler. Operating under one leadership umbrella will help streamline many processes and forge new opportunities for collaborations between “the north campus” and “the main campus.” Having the president who’s led our institution for nearly two decades at the head of that leadership team can only mean good things for the Health Science Center and our people. I hope you’ll joining me in congratulating Dr. Calhoun, while you pat yourself on the back for helping make these incredible strides possible. Here’s wishing you safe, healthy and happy holidays!

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COVID-19 updates

Current information and safety protocols 

For the past two weeks, there has been a significant surge of COVID-19 cases in East Texas in general and, specifically, among healthcare providers. It appears that most caregivers infected with COVID-19 were exposed in the community or at work in common areas such as break rooms, dining areas, etc. We also are beginning to see cases of influenza in our region. The following safety protocols and reminders will help reduce the spread of both COVID-19 and influenza.

    • Airborne viruses spread easily. Please remain vigilant both at and away from work.
    • Exposing yourself to these viruses while in public not only puts your health at risk, but it’s also a threat to your loved ones and coworkers.
    • It’s safest to assume everyone you encounter – in the community and at work – is an asymptomatic carrier of COVID-19, the flu or both.
    • When you are at work, it is imperative to follow masking and social distancing policies, especially in shared spaces such as break rooms.
    • If symptoms appear stay home, inform your supervisor and wait to hear from Occupational Health.
    • Do not come to work if you are not feeling well. We cannot afford to risk spreading illness of any kind in our workplace.
    • Sick employees should communicate with their supervisor and Human Resources regarding our sick leave policy.

COVID-related employee health issues

We are still in an active pandemic, and now more than ever, proper use of personal protective equipment is imperative. This means that masks are to be worn at all times when interacting with patients or other employees. Additionally, eye protection should be worn with all patient encounters that are within six feet. Breakrooms and the cafeteria are no exception. This is a strong reminder that social distancing of more than six feet must be maintained when unmasked and eating in these settings. Please consider alternatives such as eating in a closed office work space or eating on your own outside.

    • Employees returning to work after time off for travel, illness or known/suspected exposure to COVID-19 must complete the Return-to-Work (RTW) Screening Questionnaire and receive approval from the Occupational Health Department before coming back on campus.
    • Employees who have been directed to return to campus after exclusively working remotely are also required to complete the questionnaire and receive approval from the Occupational Health department before coming back on campus.
    • Your Return-to-Work Screening Questionnaire must be completed no later than 3 p.m. the day before your intended return to work. If return to work is on Sunday or Monday, it must be completed by no later than 3pm the Friday before. Occupational Health will make determinations on Monday through Friday between 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. If you develop symptoms over the weekend, please stay home and contact Occupational Health on Monday.
    • Occupational Health must be notified immediately if an employee has been tested for COVID-19 and once results have been received, so that Occupational Health can give the employee guidance about safely returning to work. You must stay home from work if you are sick and/or have been tested and awaiting results. Filling out the RTW survey is the preferred method of contact with Occupational Health about these issues. Should you need to clarify anything further, please email Occ Health at occhealth@nulluthct.edu.
    • Supervisors may not authorize employees who have taken time off or those who have been working remotely to return to campus without approval from Occupational Health. We are closely tracking information related to COVID-19 and need to be promptly made aware of any concerns.

Travel and COVID-19

Please remember that – despite the phased reopening by the State of Texas – we are still in a critical phase of the COVID-19 pandemic. Physical distancing continues to be recommended to decrease spread of this illness. Following these safe practices from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is strongly advised.

    • Business travel on behalf of UTHSCT continues to be suspended except under extraordinary circumstances.
    • Additionally, personal travel outside our region (defined as more than 125-150 miles) continues to be discouraged. Travel by common carrier (public airlines, buses, trains, etc.) is especially problematic. If you must travel for personal reasons, use of a personal vehicle is preferred due to the inability to practice social distancing on common carriers.
    • Occupational Health cannot make return-to-work decisions before you travel. If you choose to travel, you may be subject to quarantine upon your return.

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Employee Parking on the UTHSCT/UT Health East Texas North Campus Tyler

Due to the increase in patient activity in the Riter Center, please keep in mind the following parking requirements for employees. Employees are permitted to park only in spaces shaded in blue on the Employee Parking Map.
Employees are not permitted to park in:

    • Lot E – in front of the Riter Center.
    • Lot E1 – in front of the Emergency Department (except for the spaces shaded blue on the updated parking map).
    • Lot H – above the Riter Center (except for the outer spaces shaded blue on the Employee Parking Map).

Employees are allowed to park in:

    • Lot G – across from and behind Building 540 (see map).
    • Lot A2 – in front of the cancer center (except for spaces designated “Cancer Patients Only”).

Again, areas shaded in blue on the updated parking map are the only areas designated for employee parking. Thank you for your cooperation.

Beware of scams related to the COVID-19 vaccine

There has been an increase in online criminal activity taking advantage of the public and attacking drug companies to disrupt the supply chain of COVID-19 vaccines. Cyber criminals have targeted numerous drug companies developing COVID-19 vaccines. The hackers reportedly attempted to harvest login credentials of company personnel by creating web domains mimicking the legitimate online login portals in order to gather information on COVID-19 vaccines and treatments. For more information and safe practices, read this article about COVID-19 vaccine-related scams.

Restrictions on ordering from Amazon.com

You should be aware that Amazon.com is not a “one-stop shop” for ordering for UTHSCT. Amazon.com is to be used only to order books or supplies that cannot be purchased from any other approved vendor. Because Amazon.com orders are often fulfilled by third-party vendors, they often do not comply with UT System rules and Texas laws regarding charging sales tax (state institutions cannot pay sales tax), accepting returns and providing reimbursements, etc. There should be no Amazon.com orders for office supplies, medical supplies, equipment, etc. UTHSCT has contracts in place with UT System Supply Chain, Group Purchasing organizations (HPG, Premier, TXMAS, etc.) and other internal contracts that must be used to order these items. Please review the Allowable Expenditure procedure sheet. If you have questions please contact Crystal Smith or Tara Cheney in purchasing or email DL-Purchasing@nulluthct.edu.

Employee Advisory Council Birthday Winners

The Employee Advisory Council (EAC) held its random drawing from the December birthday list. Thomas Xu won the gift shop certificate. Toni Bolton won reserved parking in the administration lot. Jay Culpepper won reserved parking in Lot C. Congratulations and happy birthday from your EAC!

Holiday Spirit Activities

    • Wednesday, December 23, all staff are invited to wear an ugly sweater or a holiday-themed t-shirt.
    • Every Friday in December staff may wear a holiday-themed shirt, with managerial approval.

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The HOPE Fund – Helping Cancer Patients

The holidays are a beautiful time of giving, not only to our loved ones, but also to those in need. Here on our campus, many of our oncology patients are not only fighting cancer, but are also struggling to make ends meet during treatment. Can you imagine not having enough money for gas to drive to a life-saving appointment? Fortunately, the cancer patient’s HOPE Fund is available to help. This donation-driven fund assists patients in need with gas cards so they can drive back and forth to their chemotherapy and radiation treatments, and supports patients in acquiring nutritional supplements when they are unable to eat solid food. During this holiday season, we invite you make a contribution to the HOPE Fund. Your support will make a wonderful difference in the life of a cancer patient. To donate, or for more information, please call Donna Smith at 903-877-7108, or email donna.smith@nulluthct.edu.

 Virtual appointments with UT retirement vendors

UT retirement vendors are not currently allowed to come on campus for face-to-face meetings with employees. But they are available for virtual appointments. Check availability and schedule appointments using the links for each vendor company below.

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Submit news and events

Announcements about news and events for the weekly newsletter must be submitted by 5:00 p.m. on the Friday before the item is to appear in the following Tuesday’s newsletter. Submit announcements hereEarly submissions are always welcome!

Important Stuff Joe Knows is a weekly newsletter published by Joseph Woelkers, EVP & COO of The University of Texas Health Science Center at Tyler, stuffjoeknows@nulluthct.edu. Emails to this address will not receive a personal response.

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