UCR Extension Center houses local healthcare workers during pandemic

As the battle against COVID-19 wages on, healthcare workers from all parts of the country continue to express fear over unintentionally spreading the potentially fatal virus to those around them. It is not uncommon for these individuals to self isolate by sleeping in their garages, or even vehicles. In early April, UCR received a call from the Riverside County Medical Association (RCMA) inquiring about alternative housing for local healthcare professionals working through the current pandemic. According to Kevin Vaughn, the Dean of the UCR Extension Center, the topic was brought to his attention as the building he manages happened to be a perfect candidate for such an endeavor. The Extension Center was once a Holiday Inn before it was refurbished, making room for office spaces and classrooms, with the exception of the fifth floor, which retained the original hotel bed and bathrooms mainly used for visiting or foreign students and scholars.

In an interview with The Highlander, Vaughn emphasized how efficient and eager the university and his staff were in transforming this floor to provide safe housing for those working on the frontlines of the fight against the ongoing pandemic. He stated, “Everybody jumped at the opportunity. Within a day, we had 40 rooms available for medical professionals.”

The healthcare workers utilizing this temporary housing all hail from local facilities within the Inland Empire, such as the Loma Linda University Health Center, Parkview Community Hospital and Riverside Community Hospital.

Lydia Tsou / HIGHLANDER

One such resident, Dr. Garvin Patel of Providence Healthcare Partners and father of two young children, admits how tough this decision has been for his colleagues and himself. “The rationale in moving away to be close to the hospital in order to work long hours if needed, if the surge occurred, as well as to decrease the potential risk of spread of COVID to our families,” He stated. He went on to state that the situation was a difficult decision for them all.

As of May 8, 2020, there are currently 21 occupied rooms out of 40 on the top level of the Extension Center. Extra precautions and certain restrictions have been put into place in order to maximize safety for the medical employees living there, as well as the few staff members left working in the building. For best safety purposes, Vaughn told The Highlander that the medical employees’ rooms are not being serviced by the Extension Center staff. Additionally, healthcare workers are required to park in a single allotted area and they are only provided access to one entranceway and elevator at all times.

Still, in spite of these complicated circumstances, the medical professionals express great gratitude for the assistance they have received. Patel stated,”It allows me and other doctors in our group to focus on care we deliver to our patients and without worry or concern about jeopardizing our families at home.” For as long as the fight against COVID-19 continues, he and many other healthcare workers have a safe place to stay, courtesy of UCR.

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