6 ways hospitals can prepare for another COVID-19 wave

The pandemic's first wave, which is still hitting hard in some areas, has provided valuable lessons for hospitals to refine their processes and improve preparedness if another wave occurs, according to ProPublica.

Here are six lessons hospital leaders and health experts shared with ProPublica:

1. Rely on widespread testing to quickly spot a COVID-19 resurgence. Early detection is a crucial part of containing the virus's spread. 

2. Stock up on personal protective equipment and other supplies now. Northwell Health has spent $42 million on PPE alone during the pandemic. In early February, the New Hyde Park, N.Y.-based health system purchased $5 million in supplies and medical equipment, which "turned out to be a wise move," Senior Vice President and Chief Public Relations Officer Terence Lynam told ProPublica.

3. Have the flexibility to quickly move staff members and equipment from one virus hot spot to another. This was a major lesson for Northwell, which brought in 500 temporary nurses to help with COVID-19 care. Mr. Lynam said the system should have brought in these nurses at least a week earlier than it did.

4. Determine how to care for patients who don't have COVID-19 and are afraid of contracting it at a hospital. "We have to have some sort of a mechanism by which we can offer people assurance that if they come in, they won't get sick," Ashish Jha, MD, director of the Harvard Global Health Institute in Cambridge, Mass., told the publication. 

5. Provide mental health resources for front-line staff members, some of whom have witnessed an unprecedented amount of death.

6. Develop protocols to allow hospital visitors. Most hospitals banned visitors during COVID-19 surges to limit the virus's spread. However, strict no-visitor policies may have produced other unintended consequences, according to Robert Wachter, MD, chair of the department of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco.

"We didn't fully understand how important that was for patients, how much it might be contributing to some people not coming in for care when they really should have," Dr. Wachter told ProPublica.

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