The COVID-19 pandemic required organizations to reimagine their operations. Healthcare facilities big and small, urban and rural, all experienced challenges that they met head-on with constant pivoting and operational changes in order to protect their patients and employees. Let’s explore how the responses of hospital facilities have and continue to mitigate COVID challenges.

141627048_l-copy.jpgShortage of Supplies
Many facilities fell victim to supply shortages throughout the pandemic – masks and other PPE became a huge issue for hospital facilities, as organizations struggled to find the appropriate type of PPE and obtain enough equipment to meet their needs. Through using a hospital incident command system, facilities were able to work ahead and create an inventory of supplies to determine what was adequate and what needed to be replenished. By establishing relationships with partners who provide PPE and other necessary supplies, and compartmentalizing tasks in different focuses and disciplines, hospitals were able to respond to their changing supply needs.

Adapting to Changes
With an airborne virus like COVID, facilities saw a need to adapt patient spaces to reduce the spread of disease. One solution to this involved converting many areas of hospitals into negative pressure rooms. In a clever and cost-saving fix for some facilities, this was as simple as increasing the intake of bathroom fans within patient rooms. As other issues arose related to the HVAC systems and infection prevention protocols, facilities delegated specific tasks to trained and focused individuals who could address them. This saved time in deciding who was going to solve an issue and allowed for more time to procure equipment or materials that were needed to resolve the issue.

Assembling a Task Force
Facilities were able to form teams of experts to autonomously solve issues throughout the pandemic. For example, rural facilities put in a structure that formed within the incident command center, which overlayed the existing organization to create two associates responsible for supplies. One individual was responsible for normal hospital operations, while the other oversaw COVID supplies, numbers and demands. By keeping these separate, they were able to accurately and successfully monitor PPE supply levels.

Incident command centers at urban hospitals, on the other hand, were by far the most crucial connection point to manage operations through the pandemic. They were designed precisely for the purpose of managing emergencies, though the concept had spent years without being utilized. There are very few silver linings to COVID, but highlighting the true value of incident command centers is one of them. Many years of planning around diversity management paid off when these teams came together to collect and disseminate information that came pouring in as new policies were being rolled out on almost an hourly basis.

Facilities prioritized incident command groups for communication, based on their ability to provide linkages in any broken communication chains. From there, incident command employees were able to assemble individuals for assessment and support teams to be used around the facility and focus on key issues. These teams fielded all requests and altered their focus as needs changed during key points in the pandemic, from developing negative pressure isolation rooms to securing adequate numbers of PPE. Assembling teams focused on pulling resources and applying creative solutions to an ever-changing environment allowed for a focused approach to ensure the needs of the facility -- whatever they were -- were being met while maintaining patient care and satisfaction.

Recognizing Emergency Preparedness
Healthcare facilities were met with a plethora of unique challenges to be addressed at the height of the global pandemic. Many changes had to be made to facilities themselves and their operating structures. While each facility experienced its own challenges, managers collectively agree that the time and energy that was put into emergency preparedness plans for many years has been a true value to maintaining safe and effective operations in uncertain times. Safety professionals and emergency management professionals are revered for providing structures and processes for the framework for all operations management.

Investment in emergency planning has paid dividends for facilities across the board, though the success is found in the healthcare workers that apply these protocols day in and day out. Here at Medxcel, we would like to recognize all hospital facility staff for their dedicated work in maintaining a safe and caring environment within healthcare facilities. Thank you!
To hear about more facilities’ pandemic responses, particularly those in rural versus urban locations, check out Episode 9 of our podcast, Outside the Patient’s Door.