As the U.S. prepares for a surge in cases, children’s hospitals should consider these keys to a proper response.
Planning and preparedness are key to helping to mitigate the effect of an infectious disease outbreak, such as COVID-19. Make sure your organization’s plans are flexible to help ensure the proper response. Thought and planning will save time, resources and energy your hospital will need during an event. Here are a few considerations for children’s hospitals:
Set up command centers. Implement regular meetings to coordinate organizational-wide efforts. Establish and maintain key personal emergency notification list. Conduct education about staff protections and expectations.
Evaluate protective gear. Think beyond masks and gloves to protect employees—eye protection is a must. Evaluate contingencies when supplies run low. Consider removing isolation masks from public entrances and provide them upon request when symptoms of cough or cold are present.
Collaborate with the community. Coordinate with city and state officials to communicate hospital visitor guidelines to the public. Work with public health agencies and local organizations to craft public messages about symptoms and when (or when not) to visit hospitals or clinics.
Consider alternative work solutions. Encourage employees to work remote or telecommute when applicable. While this will vary by institution and the individual’s role, review your organization’s telecommute policies with staff members.
Review HR guidelines. Consider policies for employees who traveled to high-risk areas and contracted COVID-19.
Reevaluate visitor policies and the use of volunteers. To mitigate exposure to COVID-19, it may be necessary to limit some public access to the building. For example, some children’s hospitals have implemented a one-parent visitor rule, with few exceptions.
Cancel large gatherings and institute travel restrictions. Many organizations have implemented a 30-, 60-, or 90-day non-essential employee restriction on travel.
Innovate screening. Implement drive-thru mobile testing to ensure fewer individuals are entering the hospital and to help screen before the public enters the building. Consider using telemedicine technology already in place for COVID-19 screening or offer free telehealth screenings and connect high-risk patients to testing sites.
Communicate daily. Leverage social media and marketing efforts to communicate to staff and the public quickly. Social media can help your hospital spread timely information and reach beyond your hospital’s typical audience.
Consider employees’ families. Work with employees to help them think through backup childcare plans to help avoid staff shortages in the event of school closures. Encourage employees to have personal emergency plans in place, including emergency daycare arrangements and family communications.
Evaluate routine clinics and high-risk patients. Consider potentially closing routine clinics to redeploy staff to high traffic areas if virus spread increases. Plan for surge capacity, including accommodating patients in non-traditional areas both on-site and offsite. Evaluate the need to transfer ECMO patients to tertiary and quaternary sites.
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