5 Extraordinary Measures We Should Take to Help Health Workers Fight COVID-19

As a professor of nursing who
runs an international nurse consulting company, I have a unique perspective on
the startling global pandemic of COVID-19.

The disease is severely affecting
the men and women of the health professions who are on the front lines battling
the new coronavirus, which causes the disease.  Medical professionals are struggling to
prepare and care for the surge of large numbers of severely ill patients that
will flood our hospitals in many areas of the country.   

The facts on the ground are pretty straightforward: Medical professionals need personal protective equipment and ventilators.

In New York City and other hot spots
around the country, the situation has become untenable. In one hospital in New
York, nurses are donning garbage bags to protect their clothes from contamination.
At another hospital, a single ventilator is being used for two patients–an
unprecedented response to a dire situation.

As protocols are thrown out the
window and safety recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention shift, it is not surprising that some in the medical community are
becoming fearful. While old-fashioned American grit and ingenuity ultimately
will defeat this virus, policymakers must support our health workers now and give
them precious time.

Among medical professionals, the
death rates across the globe from COVID-19 are alarming. In Italy, medical
professionals make up
8 % of the total sick, 35 doctors have died, and 6,205 health professionals
have the virus
.

With every health care worker who
becomes sick, additional stress is placed on those left behind, thus adding to
the already unbearable situation of too many patients and too few caregivers.  

Amid a global pandemic, the world
faces an international shortage of health providers. Medical professionals in
many countries long have been concerned with low staffing levels and a lack of
workforce protections. Their worries are well founded. They need support.

Extraordinary times require
extraordinary measures. Here are steps administrators, government officials,
and the public can take to improve conditions. The good news is that in many
parts of the country, some of these steps already are being taken. 

So, this is what must be done–now.

1. Hospitals must extend protections to all health care professionals on the front lines.

Hospital administrators need to cancel all elective procedures (and many, thankfully are doing so) and ensure guidelines for the use of personal protective equipment–including clear instructions for decontamination of scarce equipment–are readily available. Meanwhile, additional nurses need to be rapidly trained to care for critical patients on ventilators. 

Hospitals should coordinate with
state and local officials to provide an option for external housing near the
facility, so that nurses and doctors may self-isolate and prevent spread of the
virus to family members. Hospital administrators should coordinate with local
officials to quickly identify volunteers and provide emergency onboarding.

Hospitals should coordinate with
academic and training centers to use willing students as force multipliers,
enhancing the work of licensed professionals without putting the next
generation of doctors and nurses at risk.

2. Health care professionals need legal protection, compensation, and moral support.

Medical professionals need to be able to work without fear of retaliation or personal liability. State officials should revise their medical liability laws accordingly.

Likewise, for the duration of
this crisis, health care workers need guaranteed workman’s compensation for
exposure resulting in quarantine or illness without using paid time off or
vacation hours. Hazard pay should be considered for those on high-risk units.

Hospital ethics boards must
establish clear guidelines for crisis decision-making, to prevent moral
distress. Psychologists and spiritual advisers should be readily available to
provide counsel. Managers should ensure appropriate staffing and adequate
breaks, meals, and time off to recover.

3. The full power of the federal government must be brought to bear.

For his part, President Donald Trump declared a national emergency and invoked the Defense Production Act, allowing him to order U.S. manufacturers to focus around the clock on resources needed by our medical professionals.

We need to go further to guarantee medical supplies and equipment are readily available by assessing requests, projecting need, increasing the speed of distribution, and ensuring U.S. companies are meeting needs here in America.

The federal government also must continue
to intervene to increase
imports
of medical supplies, equipment, and key pharmaceuticals while
eliminating tariffs on additional medical resources and preventing hoarding and
price gouging.  

4. The full power of state governors and legislators must be brought to bear.

Under the U.S. Constitution, state officials exercise enormous police powers to protect their own citizens.

For the duration of the crisis, governors need to continue the call for volunteers. State legislatures should loosen restrictions on professional licensure regulations, allow for licensed personnel from other states, suspend restrictions on advanced practice nurses, and expedite licensure for retired medical professionals. 

Coordinated efforts on the part
of local, state, and federal officials are imperative to ensure the safety of
the public and our health care workforce. Hospitals need additional funding to
support the efforts.

5. Every American should step up to the task.

Health professionals can be depended upon to meet this challenge, but the coronavirus threatens all of us one way or another. 

Ordinary Americans can help by
donating medical masks, practicing social distancing, donating blood, and helping
at-risk neighbors. In recent days, an outpouring of support for health care
workers has been seen across the country;  countless fellow American have showed up to
clap for staff at shift change, pray for workers from parking lots, and make food
deliveries.

The work is hard. The support is
appreciated.

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Source material can be found at this site.

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