Coronavirus has shaken every part of the global economy, including the healthcare industry. Here’s how healthcare workers can help in COVID-19 virus control.
With the COVID-19 pandemic in full swing, self-isolation measures against the coronavirus have rendered Australia's biggest cities eerily quiet.
And while some industries can send their employees home to self-isolate, this is not the case in the healthcare sector. Healthcare workers are needed now more than ever.
At the same time, healthcare workers are one of the most at-risk groups of employees across all industries.
Because of this, HR departments in the healthcare sector must stay informed on key risks to health workers as well as virus control strategies to keep employees and staff safe.
health workers have one of the highest exposure rates to confirmed cases
According to the World Health Organisation, health workers are at the front line of any outbreak response and are subsequently exposed to hazards that put them at risk of infection with an outbreak pathogen (in this case COVID-19).
Coupled with this is the fact that many health workers are facing burnout and fatigue as a result of the heightened load placed on health care systems.
Numerous health care workers, from nurses to doctors and receptionists, are likely to have contact with confirmed cases. Other medical staff who are not at risk of direct exposure are also, in turn, placed at risk from exposure to co-workers who might have contracted the virus.
Because health care workers are at such high risk, HR departments and health care organisations must work towards keeping staff safe and implement safety thorough sterilisation protocols and procedures.
how to implement virus control for health workers
Virus control and education are crucial to reducing risk for health workers. Although healthcare and medical environments are inherently focused on high levels of sterilisation, these facilities need to take additional precautions and set in place COVID-19 specific protocols for the safety of staff while dealing with the coronavirus pandemic.
Below are some of the strategies that facilities should focus on.
Increased Sterilisation Frequency
Hospitals, private practices, and other health care facilities practice routine and frequent sterilisation. Due to the high level of contagiousness of COVID-19, these establishments are advised to increase the frequency and thoroughness of sterilisation procedures.
Hand sterilisation by healthcare workers is a top priority, the health department advises that hospital staff sterilise their hands before and after all interactions with patients, as well as before and after sterilising areas of the hospital.
Rooms, surfaces, and instruments also need to be regularly and thoroughly sterilised to reduce the risk of infection. Sources are stating that the virus can survive on metal surfaces for up to 9 days, so these need particular special attention.
Cardboard and paper also need to be treated with care, as COVID-19 can live on these for up to 24 hours, and these materials are not as easily sterilised as steel, plastic, and other hard surfaces.
If your organisation is in need of updated sterilisation guidelines, browse this post.
Create Protocols for Personal Protective Equipment
The correct use of personal protective equipment is essential for the protection of health workers against the coronavirus.
Healthcare centres need to provide adequate supplies of masks, gloves, suits, face shields, goggles, and full length gowns. Staff also need to be made aware of the importance of utilising personal protective equipment.
For close contact with highly infectious cases (such as when taking samples), health workers are advised to wear Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) which includes fluid-resistant long-sleeved gowns, P2/N95 respirators, face shields or goggles, and disposable nonsterile gloves when in contact with a patient (hand hygiene protocols must also be adhered to before donning and after removing gloves).
Additionally, single use PPE should be properly discarded and not reused.
Patients who have contracted the coronavirus should also be required to wear a mask, particularly when engaging with staff.
Implement Protocols for Full Body Sterilisation
Although surfaces and hands pose the largest risk of infection, it should be noted that it is possible for the COVID-19 virus to survive on clothing and in hair. Because of this possibility, health care workers should also carry out full body sterilisation upon arriving home.
Before greeting family members, health care workers should shower and wash their hair, and place their clothes in the washing machine.
All healthcare workers returning from overseas must self-isolate
healthcare workers returning from overseas travel are required to self-isolate themselves for a minimum of 14 days. The same mandate applies to all Australian residents and citizens.
Healthcare centres are responsible for ensuring that any employees that have travelled overseas are not present at work for the 14 day self-isolation period.
Implementation of Pre-shift Screening on COVID-19 Symptoms
Another precaution that healthcare centres should take is to screen employees before every shift to enquire whether they are experiencing symptoms that correlate to the coronavirus.
COVID-19 symptoms include the following:
- Sore throat
- Breathing difficulties (in severe cases)
If employees report any of these symptoms it is crucial that they go into self-isolation immediately.
Test Healthcare Workers as Soon as Respiratory Symptoms Appear
Additionally, if health care workers develop respiratory symptoms that are cohesive with the coronavirus, it is important that testing for COVID-19 is done as soon as possible.
Because healthcare workers are at a heightened risk of contracting the virus, it is essential that testing is done without delay.
Limit Meetings, Conferences and Travel for Healthcare Workers
Another measure that HR departments and the healthcare industry as a whole must implement is limitations on in-person meetings, conferences and travel for healthcare workers.
The Australian Government has imposed bans on gatherings of more than 100 hundred people, and has urged the people to adhere to the social distancing rule of 1.5 metres as a minimum between each person. Exposing healthcare workers to others in the industry who might have been at risk is not advisable.
can health employees claim workers' compensation for covid-19 infection?
Across industries, questions are being raised regarding whether employees are eligible for workers' compensation if they contract COVID-19. Even with strict virus control protocols in place, workers are still at risk for infection.
In the case of health workers, this is an even more pertinent question, as most healthcare professionals are required to remain at work throughout pandemic conditions.
In some cases, infected staff can claim workers' compensation, however, proof is required that the infection happened at their place of work and nowhere else. For many industries, this can be difficult to prove. However, workers in the health care industry may have improved odds of being able to claim.
Disclaimer: The advice and guidelines recommended in this article may change in the future as more and new information becomes available.