From above the city skyline on the 7th floor of the hospital, ZSFG’s Incident Command Team (ICT) has come together in a new, if not unfamiliar, way. Composed of Emergency Management staff and hospital administrators, this group plays a vital role in preparing ZSFG in times of crisis. 

Jeffrey Schmidt, RN, MPH, is the Director of Clinical Operations and the Incident Commander for the COVID-19 activation at ZSFG. His role at the hospital has always included preparing for the worst-case scenarios and ensuring his team is ready to respond.

When the first cases of COVID-19 reached the Bay Area in January, the ICT began to enact protocols to prepare ZSFG for the impending crisis. They promptly added the expertise of infection control and disease prevention specialists, as well as epidemiologists.

As the disease very quickly became a pandemic and community spread skyrocketed, ZSFG shifted protocols to enact the emergency response plan needed to mitigate the spread and manage the treatment of those infected. This included canceling all elective surgeries, limiting visitors to the hospital campus, and supporting health care providers with the systems and supplies they need to treat patients safely.

Now central to all hospital operations, the ICT is using Hospital Incident Command System (HICS) Level-1 protocols to make all decisions as caring for patients with COVID-19 evolves. In response to the increase in new cases, ZSFG quickly began creating new systems — dedicated care teams, COVID-specific ICU units, and creating cohorts of patients to keep positive persons under investigation together in order to limit provider and patient spread of COVID-19.

As the only trauma center in San Francisco, this is not the first time the Incident Command Team has been activated. When California fires caused air quality to worsen, the hospital prepared to treat those suffering from respiratory ailments. When heat waves hit the Bay Area, the staff focused on how to help the most vulnerable. And when survivors of the 2014 Asiana Airlines crash were directed to ZSFG, the ICT quickly prepared the hospital to provide trauma care to injured passengers.

Jeffrey Schmidt is seeing the same teamwork happening throughout the hospital today. The people who work at ZSFG are guided by a personal mission to answer the call and serve their community. And to support each other.