How Miami-Dade’s Rosa Royo Forged Connection and Engagement with Infected Police Officers as the Pandemic Raged

When police officers in her school district contracted COVID, Rosa Royo and her team stepped up and guaranteed them nurse case management assistance.
By: | July 25, 2022

Our lives today are quite different than they were two years ago. That’s because, while we still grapple with the aftereffects of a world-wide pandemic, we have a vaccine. We have two years’ worth of history and data to rely on. 

But in 2020, we had none of these things.  

“If you recall, especially in the early days [of the pandemic], the information changed. If you heard something in the morning, it was different in the afternoon,” said Rosa Royo, director of workers’ compensation and loss prevention, Miami-Dade County Public School (MDCPS).  

Florida officials issued a memo in 2020 stating there was a presumption that police officers who contracted COVID did so while on the job. That meant every police officer would receive workers’ comp if they fell ill.  

As the person overseeing the fourth largest school district in the nation and the second largest public employer in the state of Florida, Royo and her team were happy to help the Miami-Dade officers under their care. However, hospitals inundated with patients with little information on how the virus spread prohibited visitors. That meant case managers couldn’t see their patients. 

“That is significant, because we’ve always had our nurses be that first face of contact after an accident. We also depend on the information that we get on the status of workers immediately,” Royo said. “Not only were nurses unable to get in, but also information wasn’t coming out.” 

It required a team effort, Royo said. Luckily, MDCPS had the right partners for the job. “I think we ended up with something so special, because not only did these nurses go the extra mile to give us information, but they also went the extra mile to take care of these injured workers,” she said. “We had to call everybody. We had to knock on every door we knew” to get our foot in the door. 

Using the connections Royo built as well as the ingenuity of the case managers, the team was able to get face-to-face with the officers. That proved vital, because the almost-275 claims that came in were not the “typical” claims MDCPS usually saw. (For perspective, MDCPS had a total of 17 claims in 2017, 24 in 2018, and 51 in 2019.) 

One officer became so ill, he required surgery after developing a hole in his heart. Another had to be put on dialysis. Another was told he needed a double lung transplant.   

“In my career, I hadn’t dealt with lung transplants before and neither had our nurses. The surgeon told us the officer would need to go to Gainesville, which was about five hours away,” Royo explained. “We brought in medical specialists, and they gave the officer a different course of treatment, and so he actually didn’t need the lung transplant in the end.” 

Today, every officer is back to work, with only one on light duty.  

“Without a doubt, Rosa does whatever it takes to ensure injured employees receive the best medical care to resume pre-injury functioning as soon as possible,” said Trella Lewis, Genex assistant branch manager, South Florida.

“The employee is always her main focus. For our  case managers, working with a risk manager who follows that ideology allows them to perform their job to their utmost abilities. Rosa trusts our case managers and has a wonderful relationship with them. ”

Royo reiterated that without the partnerships MDCPS had built with its vendors, she doubts there would have been as many successes. “As a long-term risk manager, you think you know everything, but there’s a lot of learning related to this profession. Even though I thought I had great contacts in place, [COVID] showed our need for more. 

“It’s really important,” she added, “to constantly challenge ourselves in this industry. You don’t always know what could happen next. We were fortunate, because we had a framework in place that allowed us to do these things.” &


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Autumn Demberger is a freelance writer and can be reached at [email protected].