Elizabeth Barry Heddleston

Elizabeth Barry Heddleston
Associate

For Hospitals, Long Term Care Facilities, Physician Offices, Urgent Care Clinics, and Other Providers:

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to unfold daily, healthcare entities of all sizes will need to continually assess their readiness to respond to the spread of the virus.

For healthcare entities located in communities that have yet to report outbreaks, now is the time to assess your facility’s current preparedness.  If COVID-19 has already arrived, initial plans may need to be updated and reassessed.

A key step in preparedness is having a written plan in place for responding to pandemics and outbreaks, such as COVID-19.  The contents of the plan will vary depending on the type and size of the facility, the patient base, and other factors.  However, there are several core elements that you should consider including in the plan:

Structure for planning and decision-making

  • Formation of a multi-disciplinary committee to address outbreak preparedness planning, including a response coordinator to lead the committee and streamline the response
  • Identification of a point-person to monitor public health advisories (federal, state and local) and other outbreak-specific resources for information and updates that may impact your facility
  • Review of relevant policies and protocols that are currently in place, such as infection control policies, to determine your facility’s current degree of readiness

Communication

  • Development of a communication plan that identifies points of contact at local and state health departments, government agencies and other appropriate resources
  • Identification of a primary spokesperson and media contact who speaks for the healthcare entity during the outbreak (having one voice that speaks for the facility will help ensure the delivery of timely and accurate information)
  • Development of communication methods to update patients, visitors, outside vendors, media and others about the status of COVID-19 at the facility and other relevant information (such as screening protocols)

Education and Training

  • Development and distribution of appropriate informational materials, including Fact Sheets and FAQs, to educate staff and patients
  • Implementation of staff training on relevant infection control measures, including training on respiratory hygiene and cough etiquette in the case of COVID-19
  • For a novel virus, such as COVID-19, updated training and education should be rolled out as more information becomes available from the CDC and other resources

Staffing

  • Development of a plan for addressing staff absences and staffing shortages during an outbreak
  • Development of protocols for handling personnel who develop symptoms while at work, when personnel may return to work after becoming ill, and how personnel may self-assess their health status before reporting to duty
  • Prioritization of critical services and identification of minimum staffing needs

Supplies and Resources

  • Assessing current quantities of essential supplies and equipment (e.g. masks, gloves, hand hygiene products, ventilators, etc.)
  • Development of a plan to address likely supply shortages
  • Identification of strategies for conserving resources and alternative channels for obtaining needed resources

Key Takeaways

There is no one-size-fits-all plan. Different types of healthcare facilities will have different needs. For example, long-term care facilities will need to plan for the identification and management of ill residents. Urgent care centers and primary care practices will need to plan for surge capacity issues as high numbers of patients seek healthcare.

The Woods Rogers Health Law Group is here if you need assistance in developing a written plan for responding to pandemic or outbreaks, or responding to specific problems or issues that arise.

Resources

CDC Guidance on COVID-19 for Healthcare Facilities

Department of Labor FAQs on FMLA and COVID-19


If you have any questions relating to pandemic planning:
Contact Liz Heddleston at lheddleston@woodsrogers.com.
View Liz’s full profile.

Read more legal updates on COVID-19 from Woods Rogers attorneys.