As we enter the third month of the global coronavirus outbreak, the number of COVID-19 cases continue to raise, exceeding 375,000 as of March 23rd 2020. February saw first fatal casualties in the USA, and the virus has reached all continents.
While there is plenty of reliable, authorized sources providing patient advice and addressing coronavirus’ FAQs, limited attention is being directed toward proper medical training for healthcare workers who sooner or later might be facing the risk of contagion. As governments struggle to curb the spread of the virus, healthcare facilities must also do their part and implement measures to keep their medical and admin workers safe. Here are seven such actions to undertake.
Provide Essential Training to Healthcare Personnel
Staff training is essential to prevent the spread of any diseases, including COVID-19, within a healthcare facility. Ensure that each member of your personnel, administrative and medical, is well-versed on the prevention and treatment of coronavirus, can recognize the symptoms, and knows how to react to a patient exhibiting them. Also train your staff on the correct use of personal protective equipment, including the use of gloves, gowns, eye protection, respirators, and other protective devices.
Educate Your Patients
Decrease the risk of contagion among your patients by educating them about coronavirus. Offer patient education in a variety of formats, from paper handouts, brochures and posters, through phone calls, to digital patient portals. Share verified, up-to-date information about coronavirus and means of protection against the illness, and point your patients to reliable sites, such as WHO’s Q&A portal, where they can find answers to all their questions concerning the outbreak.
Minimize Chances of COVID-19 Exposure
Implement a set of standard practices before and upon patient arrival, and during the examination to enhance the level of protection. If possible, interview patients via phone if they demonstrate any symptoms of COVID-19 infection prior to the visit. For those people who report symptoms of any respiratory infection, advise them to arrive wearing a facemask to contain cough or provide it to them immediately upon entry, together with other respiratory hygiene supplies such as hand sanitizers, tissues, and gloves. Also, ensure rapid triage and — if possible — separation from other patients. All patients exhibiting symptoms must be placed in an airborne infection isolation room or transferred to another hospital or ward if your place doesn’t have such facilities.
Manage Visitor Access
Review the procedures for admitting and monitoring visitors, paying particular attention to people visiting patients with known or suspected COVID-19. Log all visits, screen every visitor, and advise them on hand and respiratory hygiene and limiting movement within the facility. Advise exposed visitors to report any signs of infection immediately. In confirmed cases, consider full patient isolation.
Review Engineering Controls in Place
Examine the existing engineering controls, whether they sufficiently reduce the risk of airborne disease transmission. Check if all curtains, partitions, and air-handling systems are in good condition and have been properly installed to protect your staff from workplace hazards and ensure safety to your patients.
Avoid Stress and Working Extended Hours
The negative impacts of work-induced stress and long hours are widely-known, especially to the medical community. As of today, there’s still no antiviral medicine to prevent the COVID-19 infection or specifically treat the symptoms, the chances for recovery are strongly tied to one’s immune system and general health condition. Medical staff members have the risk to be more exposed to coronavirus than the general public. And as staff shortages, stress, and extended long hours kick in, their vulnerability to the disease soars. While there’s little you can do to address staff deficiencies, affordable time-saving solutions such as live answering services, will help you unburden your staff and boost their immunity.
Adhere to OSHA Standards and Guidelines
For now, there are no specific standards that apply to COVID-19, but following relevant OSHA guidelines and requirements may help you raise the bar for protection against the virus and contain the infection. The standards that are worth reviewing include Recording and Reporting Occupational Injuries and Illness, Personal Protective Equipment, General Environmental Controls, and Toxic and Hazardous Substances. You can find them on the Department of Labor’s site.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have issued a Hospital Preparedness Assessment Tool for hospitals and other healthcare facilities to evaluate their readiness and response capabilities.
- Exhaustive measures and guidelines on COVID-19 protection in health facilities are also available on this CDC’s site.
- The European ECDC agency shared a technical report on infection prevention and control for European-based health administrators and healthcare practitioners, which may be also applicable in the US healthcare setting.
Are Health Workers Safe from Coronavirus?
From what’s known at the moment, no one is safe from coronavirus, and medical personnel is no exception. In China, over 3,000 medical personnel got infected, which stands for nearly 30% of all reported cases. However, each day brings to light new facts and findings on COVID-19, and hospitals and healthcare facilities are becoming better equipped to protect workers and patients alike. Let’s hope that this fight will end soon.