Healthcare News & Insights

Coronavirus outbreak: How hospitals are coping with the emergency

The effects of the COVID-19 global pandemic, known as coronavirus, are now being felt in every state, putting demand on hospital resources – particularly in Washington State, New York and California. 

In a FierceHealthcare.com report, the director of quality for the healthcare organization that treated the first case of the virus in the U.S. warned that hospitals should think back to the worst day they ever had, then multiply that times four.

Here are some stress-tested strategies that are helping other hospitals work through the outbreak.

Take inventory

A shortage of supplies, plus questions about the amount in the federal stockpile, has been a concern for doctors and nurses. Running out of masks and gowns is something that, depending where you are, could happen within a few days.

It’s important to take stock of:

  • personal protective equipment (PPE)
  • ventilators – including those in intensive care units, operating rooms and ambulatory surgical centers, and
  • beds – including those that are offline.

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Hospitals should also track the number of people on staff, their vacancy rate and how that could be filled.

Anticipate staff fatigue

The impact of a pandemic is going to linger longer than events like a natural disaster. Eventually fatigue will set in, and staff members could become less focused, leading to breaches in hospital protocol.

Instead of relying on a patient care rotation of, for example, 36 to 48 hours for your A team and B team, you may have to assemble a C team so the A and B teams can get enough rest to take on their next shift.

Hospitals also need to plan for their healthcare professionals becoming ill with coronavirus, which would require them to quarantine and be out of commission for 14 days.

Consider an alternative care site

Home testing kits for COVID-19 are still in the works, so some hospitals are operating drive-by screening sites or screening tents in their parking lots to triage patients.

Because a sustained community outbreak of coronavirus would require you to take action, start brainstorming possible alternative sites of care.

Consider who will staff an alternate site and how to keep it stocked with supplies, and identify partners in the community you can work with to get it going.

Change radiology’s role

Now that chest CT scans are no longer a required diagnostic for coronavirus, your radiology department should be prepared to be both a screening site and to provide patient care support for your entire health system.

This’ll help take the strain off some of your hospital’s other staff as they become overwhelmed with patients.

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