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Michigan Medicine has opened a 32-bed isolation unit specifically to care for COVID-19 patients, the University of Michigan health system said Monday. 

Called the Regional Infectious Containment Unit, or RICU, the facility is part of a comprehensive plan to deal with the novel coronavirus, said Dr. Marschall Runge, Michigan Medicine CEO and dean of the University of Michigan Medical School.

“This unit enhances care and minimizes risk of disease spread, while improving safety of patients on and off the unit, visitors and staff,” Runge said in a press release. 

In a late Monday media call, Runge said the health system has also expanded sick time benefits for all staff involved in the care of COVID-19 patients, from doctors and nurses to sanitation workers. 

Those infected with the novel coronavirus as a result of their jobs at the RICU or other locations across the health system will receive 120 hours of paid time off, in addition to 80 hours of special use paid time off that was already approved for all employees for dealing with the crisis.

The paid time off can be used whether the time off is needed because they have the virus or need to care for loved ones. It comes in addition to sick time included in their employee benefit packages, according to Michigan Medicine. 

"If they happened to be exposed and need to be quarantined for two weeks, this will fully cover their salary," Runge said. "This is part of thanking and recognizing the selfless dedication of these care providers who care for these high-risk patients. 

"Everyone goes into medicine wanting to help patients, and its a scary business right now. And our providers have just stepped right up."

The health system also has ramped up its capacity for COVID-19 testing by contracting with a private vendor to process tests, in addition to those performed by the state Department of Health and Human Services, Runge noted. 

Michigan Medicine has developed its own test, which has been submitted to the federal Food and Drug Administration for approval, which is expected in weeks.

"We hope the FDA will give us approval, and then we'll use all three of these resources," Runge said. "We'll have quite a high capacity to do testing; that turn-around (time for test results) will be quite rapid, about eight hours."

kbouffard@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @kbouffardDN

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