As the winter months loom, anticipated overlap of COVID-19 and Influenza have hospital administrators and healthcare experts concerned. The U.S. will likely face both healthcare crisis at the same time, and hospitals should plan for all potential scenarios.
Kathy Kohnke, Fastaff Senior Vice President of Client Services, provides the five most important protocols hospitals should enlist to prepare for new challenges in meeting healthcare demand should these two diseases cross paths.
How hospitals can prepare for the flu season during a pandemic
1. Consider childcare alternatives
During the COVID-19 pandemic, one significant issue hospitals experienced was staff unable to work due to lack of childcare. It is recommended that hospitals strategize childcare options for staff with children. These options may also include reasonable accommodations for children who have contracted the flu.
For children that test positive for COVID -19, locking in contingency healthcare staff allows parents to care for children that cannot go to daycare outside of the home.
2. Remember lessons learned from COVID
In the beginning of the COVID pandemic, hospitals created pandemic committees to respond to the virus. Right now, hospital administration and medical staff should be looking for the lessons learned from COVID. What went right? What went wrong? Start creating plans based on these experiences to stay ahead of a double burden that may escalate precipitously.
3. Develop communication plans
Based on these learnings from COVID-19 and seasonal Influenza spikes, hospitals should create prevention campaigns for both viruses. Additionally, communicate plans to keep employees and patients safe during a COVID-19/flu spike. This should include clear strategies to stockpile and ensure access to PPE as well as plans for critical unit capacity expansion and separation.
4.Trainings and additional education
Hospitals should be creating staff education and training, including unique treatment plans for each virus and emergency drills for all employees.
5. Secure contingency staffing coverage
At the peak of the pandemic, hospitals reported that up to 40% of their staff were unavailable due to their own illness or caring for sick family members. While no one can predict what the next spike will bring, hospitals should plan ahead to ensure contingency staffing coverage before another flux. This means having a staffing contract in place to ensure nurses can be sent to the facility within days, rather than waiting for paperwork to be approved and finalized.
Flexibility in staffing coverage is crucial to plan for surges in census and potential sudden drop off. Having nurses deployed in days with the option to cancel with a four shift notice, provides administrators the opportunity to not only cover the surge, but not overpay on a 13 week contract that should have been four.
Finally, locking in staff early, ensures hospitals will not pay rates that increase with demand.