Over the past six weeks, the response of California’s hospitals to the COVID-19 threat has been nothing short of awe-inspiring.
You were called on to act, and you sprang into action — upending normal work in a matter of days to prepare for the worst this pandemic could bring to California. This was done without fear or hesitation, because hospitals were needed, and you answered the call.
It seems, due to effective physical distancing, that the capacity added since early March may not be needed, so thoughts are turning toward how to increase access to care for Californians who have been delaying the treatments and services they need.
This is a driving and abiding impulse for hospital leaders: to provide care to their communities; when that is impeded, it can be frustrating — both for those who need care and for those whose mission it is to provide it.
But, unfortunately, we’re not out of the woods yet. As of today, there remains a good chance that California’s peak has still not hit, and even after it does, we must be vigilant to guard against a second wave of the virus.
That’s why it’s so important to heed the state’s plan, released Monday and developed with CHA input, to resume deferred and preventive health care. This plan lays out important guidelines for balance: balancing the safety of our communities, our workers, and our patients in a still-precarious period with efforts to resume care for those who need it as part of a gradual reintroduction of services. Among them:
- COVID-19 indicators (e.g., infection rates, hospitalizations, ED admissions, ICU beds, and skilled-nursing facility [SNF] outbreaks)
- Adequate PPE
- Availability of testing when knowing the COVID-19 status of staff or patients is important for clinical care and infection control
- Consultation with local public health officers
- Availability of qualified staff
- Having patient flow systems and infection control precautions in place
The document also details guidance on care prioritization and scheduling, outpatient visits, hospital and outpatient surgery care, dental services, SNF operations, and more.
While all of us want to get back to the vital work of care provision, none of us wants to contribute — in any way — to the possibility of a second COVID-19 wave that threatens public health.
There is light at the end of this tunnel, and we can now begin to see it more clearly. On the other side will be a return to the work you do 365 days a year, along with conversations at the highest levels about how to make whole California’s hospitals that rose to meet a critical moment, all the while putting their long-term viability to serve their patients and communities in great jeopardy.