How U of T Engineering team helps hospitals redeploy staff amid COVID-19 pandemic

University of Toronto researchers in the Faculty of Applied Science & Engineering have designed a tool to help hospitals make the most of their resources during the COVID-19 pandemic by more efficiently matching staff to open jobs.

With experts saying Ontario has entered a peak period for COVID-19 cases, hospitals’ staffing needs in the Greater Toronto Area and across the province are changing rapidly and researchers, nurses and other hospital staff are being reassigned to areas of urgent need. For example, some hospital staff are being assigned to screen vistors for symptoms of COVID-19 at building entrances. 

Enter the U of T researchers’ Redeploy tool, which uses mathematical optimization techniques to help match staff profiles to available jobs. It takes into account shift hours, skills, human resources requirements and staff preferences.

“Redeploy allows for urgent needs to be met and places staff into roles fairly and equitably,” says Timothy Chan, a professor in the department of mechanical and industrial engineering in the Faculty of Applied Science & Engineering. 

“For example, the tool can be tailored to only place a staff member on an overnight or weekend shift once a month and spread out those less-desirable hours amongst staff,” says Chan, who is leading the project with a team of graduate students. 

“The tool processes all of the data and can complete complex matches much more quickly and, potentially, more accurately.”

Read more Lynsey Mellon