COVID-19 - We Are Up & Running, But Staying Safe - See Our Response
Coronavirus is spreading rapidly throughout the world, with healthcare facilities in each country struggling to keep up with the demands on their resources. More than a hundred countries are currently afflicted with this issue and the number only keeps growing every day. Many of these countries are now undertaking drastic measures to prevent the spread of this virus. These include social distancing, self-isolation, and even complete lockdowns.
It’s evident that we need to take coronavirus seriously. The healthcare facilities are a key part of this fight. Below is a checklist, as extensive as possible, of how such facilities could take steps to provide the best protection from coronavirus:
No matter what their specialization is, every healthcare facility should have preparations on hand for the potential arrival of coronavirus patients. Their staff should have the required training and the proper equipment for treating coronavirus safely as well as keeping themselves from harm.
The training for dealing with patients of the coronavirus disease should include the following:
To prepare for any potential coronavirus patients, all kinds of healthcare facilities should have infection control and prevention policies in place. These include certain areas of the facility such as pediatrics, environmental services, infection control, critical care, and the emergency department. The heads and quality officers of these departments should review the COVID-19 guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
To deal with coronavirus or COVID-19, the facility should provide education and specific training to healthcare professionals. These include recognizing the signs of the infection, safely collecting a specimen, having the right personal protective equipment, and enforcing infection control practices.
Other forms of training regarding COVID-19 include triage procedures that decide the placement of patients to minimize infection risk. They also include policies for sick leave for HCP and what to do when there has been an unprotected exposure.
It’s also essential to immediately report any coronavirus cases to the relevant authorities. This will help them decide what steps to take for further protection. To do this, the facility should first have a process for quickly identifying anyone with either suspected or confirmed coronavirus.
There should be signs at every entrance to instruct everyone about using masks, covering their mouth and nose while coughing or sneezing, and how to properly use tissue papers. The instructions should also include how to dispose of used tissues and maintain hand hygiene after touching any respiratory secretions.
The general equipment that patients and any symptomatic individual might need include face masks, which should be provided by the facility upon their entrance. There should also be signs advising the patients with any symptoms to notify the relevant triage personnel. Other provisions include alcohol-based hand sanitizer, tissue papers, and no-touch containers for the disposal of those tissues.
In addition to the sanitizers and tissues, healthcare facilities also need a well-ventilated and separate waiting area for patients. This should have enough space to practice social distancing, which requires people to stand or sit at least six feet apart. The space should also have enough cough etiquette and respiratory hygiene supplies.
The facility should have a process to move any suspected or confirmed coronavirus patients to an AIIR (Airborne Infection Isolation Room). If any patient cannot be placed in such a room immediately, there should be a system in place for their waiting outside within a personal vehicle or any other appropriate place. They should then get a notification on their phone or by any other means when their turn comes.
In any isolation unit or even a general hospital ward, there should be coronavirus antimicrobial barrier curtains in place. These should be made of antimicrobial material even on Warehouse Curtains or Industrial Curtains in order to minimize the risk of infection. With such curtains in the facility, there are fewer chances of the infection spreading from a patient to a healthy person. The antimicrobial material should also be considered for the sheets and any other fabric used in the facility.
Triage personnel should be able to ask the right questions and know what action to take next. They should be identifying and isolating any suspect cases rapidly. There should be a process in place after identifying a suspect case. This should include notifying the leadership immediately along with performing maximum infection control.
There should be a confirmation of the number of AIIRs available as well as their location. These should ideally be in the inpatient units and emergency departments. Each AIIR should also have undergone testing and be effective for housing coronavirus patients.
Every AIIR should have sufficient air exchanges, which amounts to at least six air changes every hour. If the facility has been newly constructed or recently renovated, the air exchanged should be at least twelve per hour. There should also be a HEPA filter in place while the room doors should be closed only when someone is exiting or entering the room. Entry and exit should also be kept to a minimum.
When a patient is in an AIIR, the room should have daily checks for proper negative pressure. Protocol such as sputum induction should also be performed with proper PPE. The HCP entering the room should be minimized.
There should be airborne, eye contact, and standard precautions to prevent the transmission of the coronavirus disease as well as any other infection which could worsen the situation. The HCP should also undergo a test for medical clearance, fitness tests, and training for using respirators.
The spread of coronavirus is certainly scary. But the good news is that we’re able to fight back. The precautions we take and the protection we get from healthcare facilities will go a long way in preventing this pathogen from spreading much further.
Some countries are already reporting several recovered cases and the development of vaccines is underway along with certain successful treatments. With isolation, proper care, and steps for limiting the spread of this virus, we can hopefully beat it back.