6 Steps Healthcare Facilities Can Take Now to Prepare for COVID 19 Patients

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The Corona Virus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) is spreading widely and COVID-19 positive cases are reported throughout the United States and in various countries worldwide. It is vital to take imperative measures to protect ourselves and our family members from this contagious disease. 

The future of the community outbreak is unpredictable! But, it is important to have a proper plan so that it can cause the least damage if the outbreak occurs. Hence, the efficient functioning of the healthcare facilities has to be the top priority. 

The healthcare facilities must provide proper care to all the patients regardless of the COVID-19 infection status. They should provide special care for patients who are in need. Vigorous efforts are necessary to reduce the spread of disease, guide the people towards the right level of care, and help the healthcare systems to reduce their burden. 

The U.S. healthcare systems should work towards achieving the key goals to prevent the COVID-19 outbreak. The system should focus on:

  • A decrease in morbidity and mortality
  • Reduce the spread of COVID-19 
  • Safeguard the healthcare workers
  • Protect the functioning of the healthcare systems

To achieve these goals the healthcare facilities should prepare themselves for the community transmission of COVID-19. But how?

Let’s have a deep look at what are the 6 steps necessary to be prepared before treating the COVID-19 patients: 

Educate the facility staff

Pick a time to reach the facility staff so that the hospital authorities can educate the staff on:

How COVID-19 spreads?

COVID-19 is mostly spread from person-to-person in the form of respiratory droplets from the infected person when he coughs, sneezes or talks. The droplets then land on the mouths or noses of the person in close contact which he inhales into the lungs. At times even the people without symptoms may also spread the virus. Hence, to prevent the spread it is most important to maintain social distancing. 

If a person touches a surface or an object that has the virus and then touches their mouth, nose, or eyes, then there are chances that they can even be infected. Although this may not be the main reason for the spread, researchers are learning more about the virus and yet to deliver potential results. The best way to prevent this is to wash hands with soap and water or with an alcohol-based sanitizer. Also, clean the surfaces frequently.

How to manage COVID-19 patients when there is a community outbreak? 

While managing the COVID-19 patients there is necessary information to be taken which are listed below:

  • The incubation period is of 14 days with a median time of 4-5 days from the exposure to the symptoms.
  • According to The Centres for Disease Control & Prevention the signs and symptoms in the patients vary as per the following: Fever (83–99%) Cough (59–82%) Fatigue (44–70%) Anorexia (40–84%) Shortness of breath (31–40%) Sputum production (28–33%) Myalgias (11–35%).
  • Various other symptoms like headache, confusion, rhinorrhea, sore throat, hemoptysis, vomiting, and diarrhoea have also been reported but are less in number.
  • As of now there is no such data that there is a possibility of re-infection with SARS-CoV-2 after recovery from COVID-19.

Reduce the number of unnecessary healthcare visits

There are a few alternative healthcare measures that can reduce unnecessary healthcare visits to prevent transmission of the respiratory virus in the facility:

  • Encourage the patients to use the available device lines, patients portals, on-line self-assessment tools, or call and speak to the clinic staff if they find any symptoms. 
  • Train a team in a facility who can interact with the patients through telephonic and telehealth medium. Initiate protocols through which the staff can triage and test the patients quickly. 
  • Design such algorithms that can help the healthcare personnel to categorize the patients who can be managed through telephone and advised to stay home. The algorithm should also identify who should be sent for emergency care or who should visit a healthcare facility. 
  • Direct the patients who have respiratory symptoms to call the facility before they leave their home because the staff can prepare themselves to take care of them as soon as they arrive.

Optimize the N95  respirators

N95 respirators are the ones that protect them from airborne and fluid hazards. Also, if there is a need for an alternative measure then use a face shield over standard N95 respirator. If there is a shortage of N95 respirators then there is a need to optimize them properly: 

  • Facilities should track the current N95 respiratory inventory and supply chain so that they are prepared well in advance in case of any shortage. 
  • Facilities should understand the N95 respirator utilization rate. 
  • Healthcare facilities should maintain good relations with local healthcare coalitions, federal, state, and local public health partners to be updated about the identification of additional supplies. 
  • Educate the Health Care Personnel (HCP) with the necessary information and training, demonstrate them about the competency with donning and doffing with any PPE ensemble that performs the job responsibilities like provision of patient care. 

Be aware of infection prevention and control

For minimizing the spread of the novel coronavirus, it is better to take a few infection control measures: 

  • Make sure to implement source control for each and everyone entering the healthcare facility including the healthcare personnel, patients, & visitors regardless of symptoms. 
  • Ensure contact tracing for exposures in a healthcare setting which is in favour of universal source control for Health Care Personnel (HCP). 
  • Organize separate, well-ventilated triage areas to place patients with confirmed or suspected COVID-19 in private rooms. 
  • Highlight hand hygiene, set up barriers to limit the contact with patients at triage, group all the COVID-9 patients, restrict the number of staff who provide care and prioritize respirators for aerosol-generating procedures.

Monitor healthcare workers

It is most important to monitor the healthcare workers and see that there is proper maintenance of essential facility staff and operations: 

  • Inform the facility staff about the updated sick leave policies and in case they’ve any respiratory symptoms, then encourage them to stay home. 
  • Stay updated about the recommended work restrictions monitoring related to the exposure to COVID-19 patients. 
  • Before each employee enters the clinic premises, they should check if they have any signs of illness and notify their supervisor. 
  • Have alternative plans if the employee absenteeism increases due to illness in them or their family members so they should stay home. 
  • The above plan for absenteeism can include extending hours, cross-training current employees, or hiring temporary employees.

If possible manage mildly infected patients at home

Proper instruction should be given to the staff at local and state health departments, infection prevention and control professionals, and healthcare personnel who are looking after the home care and isolation of people with confirmed COVID-19 cases and people under observation. Follow the below measures: 

  • Evaluate the patients for their sustainability at home. With the guidance of the state or local healthcare department staff, the HCP should check: 
  1. If the patient is suitable for home care.
  2. If there are enough people to take care.
  3. There is a separate room so that the patient can recover without sharing immediate space with others. 
  4. The patient can access food and other necessities easily.  
  5. The patient and other people at home have all the necessary PPE and can abide by the precaution needed for isolation. 
  • If possible assign a staff who will regularly monitor patients who are at home through telephone calls, text, patient portals or other means.
  • Ensure that the local public health, home health services, and community organizations will assist the patients with necessary support services like the delivery of food, medication and other essentials for those at home care. 

Prevention is better than cure!

Hence, all the healthcare facilities should abide by all the necessary measures to prevent the community outbreak of the deadly COVID-19. The facilities should ensure that the above-mentioned steps are followed strictly to help the world fight against Corona. As a result of COVID-19 many nursing conferences are postponed and some are conducting the conferences virtually to educate the public. Follow the rules and prevent the outbreak.

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