For months, everything from haircuts to eating out to going to the gym was temporarily put on hold across the nation. In order to stop the spread of COVID, people hunkered down at home and dealt with their shaggy manes and at-home workouts.
Now, that almost feels like a distant reality. States across the country are slowly (or in some cases, quickly) reopening, and people are beginning to resume their lives outside the safety of their homes.
However, the COVID-19 pandemic is still with us. Even though businesses are opening their doors, precautions like social distancing and proper hand hygiene are just as important as they were a couple of months ago.
What’s more — and quite concerning — is that we’re not exactly in the clear. In fact, many claim we’re actually in the eye of the storm, and a second wave of the pandemic is waiting for us on the other side.
CDC Director Robert Redfield fears that we will have to deal with the flu epidemic and the coronavirus epidemic at the same time.
Although there is no way to know what the fall and winter months will bring, it’s certainly something that hospitals need to prepare for. Fortunately, they have something they didn’t have before — practice. Here’s how hospitals can use that to their advantage.
How Hospitals Should (And Are) Getting Ready For A Second Wave
Less than a year ago, hospitals had no idea what was about to hit them — and their preparation for fighting a global pandemic was nowhere what it is today. Fortunately, from information to necessary equipment, hospitals have a lot more at their disposal to help them treat a second wave of COVID-19 patients.
Utilizing Increased Knowledge
In mid-March 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) had just officially declared COVID-19 a pandemic. Meanwhile, knowledge regarding how the virus spreads, how it impacts patients, and what kind of threat it posed for healthcare professionals was minimal at best.
The more time that passes, the more understanding experts have of COVID-19 — a critical component of fighting the illness. Now, hospitals are equipped with information about which medicines and interventions are most effective and how the virus actually affects a patient’s body.
For instance, preliminary data suggest that corticosteroid dexamethasone may be effective in treating patients with COVID-19. Clinical trials are helping researchers learn more about the virus every day, some of which involve drugs already approved for other illnesses.
Enhancing Safety Protocols
At the beginning of the pandemic, isolation procedures varied widely — sometimes not existing at all. One physician, who helped treat the first critically ill COVID-19 patient in Louisiana, said there were no strict protocols for isolation at the time. As a result, he and his team were exposed to the virus.
Now, hospitals understand the importance of separating suspected COVID-19 cases for infection control. In addition, other important protocols keep patients and employees safe, including:
- Screening patients and visitors for fever or other symptoms
- Encouraging sick employees to remain home
- Leveraging telemedicine to limit the number of patients
- Requiring cloth face coverings for anyone entering the facility
- Communicating policies frequently to both employees and patients
Also, some hospitals are encouraging personnel who can work from home to do so. One study revealed that up to 30% of healthcare workers could work from home permanently — and an additional 30% could adhere to a hybrid approach of being in the office and at home. Measures like these can help minimize the number of people in the building, making it safer for everyone.
Stocking Up On Critical Equipment
No one could predict the sudden demand for personal protective equipment (PPE) and ventilators prior to COVID-19. Now that hospitals are experiencing a bit of relief in terms of patient influx, they’re able to conserve and bolster their supply.
For surgical masks and gowns, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has outlined conservation strategies for hospitals to follow depending on their supply levels. For instance, hospitals can prioritize gown and mask usage by the level of contact that providers will have with patients.
In addition, the supply chain is getting better for PPE, offering hospitals an opportunity to improve and prepare their stock for the future.
Communication And Coordination Are Key
As hospitals are getting a handle on how to navigate through a global pandemic, they can use these enhanced protocols and preparation measures to promote a safer environment. By communicating how they’re keeping those within their walls safe, patients and workers can feel more at ease.
Additionally, coordination within a hospital is integral to ensuring everyone is on the same page. Within the New York University hospital system, the heads of hospitals communicate with one another at least daily regarding COVID-19, and they make sure to stay in close contact with the state, as well. These efforts can go a long way in ensuring a hospital remains prepared.
During the first wave of the pandemic, hospitals were given very little time to adjust. Now, backed by knowledge, preparation, and awareness, hospitals can be ready for what comes next — both tomorrow and many years down the road.