On March 27, University of St.Thomas Residence Life alerted students to move out of their dorms immediately amid the COVID-19 pandemic.With hundreds of rooms available on campus, the University decided to provide housing for medical professionals in the Houston area,Vice President of Finance and Business Affairs Spencer Conroy said.
“We reached out to Baylor College of Medicine, Houston Methodist, Harris Health and MD Anderson,” Conroy said. “We had a really strong response. There is a real need for this.”
He said UST is specifically offering housing to medical professionals who are caring for COVID-19 patients and want to stay away from home during the pandemic to reduce the spread of the virus.
“It’s usually someone who…may have an elderly grandmother or live with someone who may have pre-existing conditions and they are..trying to stay away from them,” he said.
According to Conroy, providing the housing will cost UST $28 a day per room per medical professional.
Conroy said UST arranged contracts with different hospitals and is asking them to pay for the cleaning of the rooms and common areas.
According to Conroy, the University is charging the hospitals at a “competitive, but low rate.”
In an email to the Independent, Director of Residence Life Ana Alicia Lopez wrote that current students, alumni and medical professionals working at the Baylor College of Medicine and Harris Health will not be charged a room.
However, any medical professionals coming “on their own” will pay $100 a month out of pocket. If they want UST to provide linens or maid services, the cost is $200 a month.
Conroy said the Baylor College of Medicine has asked for a two-month residency in Guinan Hall.
Conroy said the University’s janitorial staff are cleaning the rooms once a week, and the common areas every day. They are also required to wear personal protective equipment gear while working.
PPE gear includes A-95 masks, gowns and gloves, according to Conroy.
Although UST janitors are not required to clean the dorms amid the pandemic, Conroy said a couple have volunteered and are receiving “additional compensation.”
“We are making the opportunity available to custodians first on a volunteer basis, and if we don’t have enough volunteers then we’ll leverage outside firms,” he said.
Sindy Madrid, a Emergency Response nurse at Ben Taub Hospital’s Level I Trauma center, said she is planning on staying in the dorms until she needs to move-out.
She said she currently works four or five 12-hour shifts a week.
Madrid said she paid a $100 fee for one month since she is a professional who came to the University “on her own.”
“I did have to pay a fee, but it’s a great deal and I feel it’s worth every dollar,” she said.
According to Madrid, the housekeeping services she receives include changing the linens and basic cleaning. UST Residence Life also provides medical professionals with a shower curtain and toilet paper.
She said all medical professionals are on the second floor of Guinan and are “spaced out” to follow social distancing recommendations.
Madrid was living in an apartment with her mother when the COVID-19 pandemic escalated in March, and had been looking for somewhere else to stay to protect her mom, who is in her late 50s and has high blood pressure.
“I think of this as a blessing, because I was trying to move out and it was really hard to get a lease because of what’s going on, so this came in at a perfect time,” she said.
Staying at UST “has helped with the anxiety and stress with having to come home and possibly expose my mom,” she said.
Additionally, Madrid said the short commute from UST to the hospital has been a relief after a “long and exhausting day.”
“It can get really mentally draining,” she said.
Madrid said she has been at Ben Taub for almost a year and that she volunteered to help out when the “situation started to escalate.”
“I’m 30-years-old and I don’t have any medical problems so I felt it was my calling to be one of the COVID-19 nurses,” she said.