The COVID-19 pandemic rapidly swept the globe with nearly 95,000 cases reported in Canada by June 2020. Although the country saw uneven outbreaks across its regions, the potential for the pandemic to overwhelm hospitals and care facilities remained a growing threat.
With hospitalizations for COVID-19 under control, we can now move into a new normal where care facilities can look to the next steps. Now is the time to tighten security best practices to offset new outbreaks and the emergence of future pandemics. Here’s how to get started with your security action plan.
1. Create a Testing Plan
Creating a robust testing and tracing plan is one of the first steps in improving the security in care facilities during a pandemic. Staff, patients, and visitors should all be regularly tested for COVID-19 symptoms, including fever and coughing. In addition, the ability to regularly test employees or send them to a nearby testing center can quickly identify positive cases. The ability to isolate an infection can reduce an outbreak before it gets out of control.
2. Use a Single Entrance
Care facilities typically have multiple public entry points that are difficult to track during a health crisis. Reducing access to a single entrance for visitors can help track and contain the potential spread of a virus. In addition to a single entrance, consider creating flows of pedestrian traffic where personnel and visitors stay on one side of the hallway depending on the direction they’re walking in. However, personnel can still access absolutely necessary entry points, including ER entrances.
3. Limit Visitors and Vendors
Limiting visitors and vendors is imperative during a pandemic or any health crisis. Creating regular e-mail and text touchpoints to inform patients what to expect and to inform their loved ones can reduce visitors. Vendors should also be limited or asked to accommodate touchless drop-off to a confined location.
Monitoring visitors is part of ensuring a safe environment for care facilities. A thermal camera with commercial-grade capabilities can help track guests and detect elevated body temperatures.
4. Gather Coalition Support
Do you have local support from your community of healthcare professionals? Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security recommends healthcare providers joining or forming a local coalition. Team up with neighboring hospitals, health agencies, and emergency management to engage in local planning and protocols for the community. A coalition can help create a consistent local response and unify protocols in case of a larger outbreak.
5. Create PPE Guidelines
Medical staff may be short on PPE during a pandemic, however, creating a protocol for distributing gear can help reduce a shortage. Decide which frontline workers will benefit the most from PPE to reduce the spread. Workers behind the scenes may be able to use their own masks or consumer variations. Visitors should also be required to wear face coverings or masks, with children not allowed to enter the premises unless otherwise arranged with staff.
Make implementing best security practices for care facilities a top priority. Staying ahead of the curve and creating an action plan can help reduce the fallout from future COVID-19 spikes and emerging pandemics. From creating a testing plan to limiting visitors and vendors, your best bet for safety is a proactive approach that evolves with the pandemic.