6,500 Hoag Memorial Hospital Employees, No Litigated COVID Claims: Windee McKinley Take a Bow

Quick thinking and a willingness to learn enabled this risk manager to protect her employees without any COVID-related litigation.
By: | September 2, 2021

Hospitals were overwhelmed by COVID-19 cases at the height of the pandemic. Among those affected was Hoag Memorial Hospital, a facility in southern California employing around 6,500 health care workers.

As well as having to contend with rising cases of infection, the hospital was also exposed to greater potential claims and had to implement a host of new protocols to deal with the virus.

It also presented Windee McKinley with her first big challenge since taking on the position of director, HR, operations and compliance.

McKinley worked around the clock with doctors and nurses to help employees who had contracted the virus. Despite still learning the ropes in her new role, McKinley, having worked at Hoag in HR for five years, immediately realized the hospital’s workers’ compensation scheme needed some significant improvements.

Diving straight in, McKinley quickly got up-to-speed with exactly what was required for the program and dealing with the wider pandemic, implementing new safety protocols, increasing personal protective equipment orders to cope with the surge in admissions and keeping up with the latest state-mandated reporting.

“I implemented an electronic intake form utilizing SharePoint for symptomatic employees to complete that drilled down into vaccination status and how they had acquired the virus, as well as electronic contact tracing to notify other staff of potential exposure and outline any quarantine requirements,” McKinley said.

“Additionally, I implemented a ticketing system, Zendesk, to manage all inquiries following up on status of testing and claims, and started a new graduate program to oversee the SharePoint/COVID tracking. All this allowed our case managers to focus on closing 200-plus open COVID-related claims by April/May. We have also been able to work on improving our workers’ compensation program, including processing all other claims in a timely manner, and strategizing each claim to reduce ongoing liability and financial costs.”

McKinley ensured staff received sick pay leave they were due under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act.

All the time, the hospital was under extreme pressure having to deal with patients brought in on a daily, even hourly, basis as subsequent waves of the pandemic struck.

Using CorVel Corporation’s risk management platform, McKinley made sure all non-industrial COVID cases were reported under Senate Bill 1159. That required investigating, carrying out contact tracing, finding out from employees when they were tested and how many were working on site at the time a case was reported.

Putting a plan in place, she ensured the facts were documented and reported on the platform.

During her short tenure to date, McKinley has closed 134 claims files and had no litigated COVID-19 claims. Average costs incurred per claim also decreased 28%. In addition, under her watch, 96% of employees returned to work in full capacity.

“Windee’s forward-thinking approach to risk management, her focus on safety and her compassionate approach to employee engagement resulted in collaborative, effective and efficient management of COVID-19 and general workers’ compensation claims,” said Lauren Shaddock, account manger at Corvel Corporation. &

Every year, Risk & Insurance selects deserving candidates to become Risk All Stars. These are risk managers who, through their perseverance, passion and creativity, make a big difference to the stability of their organizations.

See all the 2021 Risk All Star Winners here.

Alex Wright is a UK-based business journalist, who previously was deputy business editor at The Royal Gazette in Bermuda. You can reach him at [email protected].

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