To say that the COVID-19 crisis has overwhelmed health systems across the globe is an understatement. The WHO (World Health Organization) global pulse survey found that 90% of countries have reported disruptions to necessary health care services since the pandemic started. The organization also said that health systems worldwide are collapsing due to intensive care units being completely overwhelmed, and doctors and nurses find themselves utterly exhausted.
With all these reports and statistics, we shouldn’t be surprised when we find ourselves anxious about the thought of going to the hospital or a clinic. After all, doctors and nurses are exposed to the virus all the time, and we don’t know just how crowded the hospital or clinic will be when we go. But while many of these concerns are valid, you shouldn’t miss a trip to your primary healthcare provider due to fear or worry. Here are some ways healthcare settings protect front line healthcare workers and patients from being infected by the virus.
Regular sanitation and disinfection
Common areas like lobbies, waiting rooms, and restrooms are deep cleaned, sanitized, and disinfected, with special attention given to high-touch surfaces like doorknobs, handrails, and armrests. And even before the pandemic, healthcare settings have always had an obligation to sanitize tools and equipment regularly, which is why they have laboratory autoclaves and other equipment to keep everything in the hospital sterile and sanitary.
Proper physical distancing
The virus is primarily transmitted through respiratory droplets when people talk, breathe, sneeze, or cough, and the longer the interaction, the more chances of contracting the virus. Because of this, hospitals and clinics abide by physical distancing guidelines set by the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention). Healthcare settings now require people inside, both patients and staff, to keep a distance of at least six feet from others. Clinics and hospitals now employ floor signs and stickers to show where people can stand in common areas.
Reduced number of people
Some healthcare settings also require appointments now to ensure that the number of people that enter the facilities remains limited. The number of people allowed to gather in one place still varies from state-to-state, and establishments (not just hospitals and clinics) have to abide by these guidelines. For example, some retail establishments can open their doors for indoor shopping but must limit the space occupancy to 50%. Healthcare settings also abide by these restrictions to keep person-to-person interaction minimal.
Sanitizers and masks
Some hospitals in America have already enforced the universal mask policy, which means all of their staff must wear masks properly. Some hospitals even require their staff to wear face shields or goggles to protect their eyes. Healthcare settings also pepper their common areas with hand sanitizers that people can access and use easily. And of course, doctors and nurses who care for COVID-19 positive patients also wear PPEs.
Some hospitals and clinics have also opened up channels for telemedicine, online consultations, or checkups. Thanks to technology, expert physicians can meet with patients who might not visit the hospital or the clinic and whose symptoms can be checked remotely. It has its limitations and disadvantages, but it’s a good-enough alternative for now and a good way to keep infections at bay. It’s a good first step for patients who might be feeling specific symptoms because the physician can always ask the patient to come into the hospital and clinic if more tests are needed.
Testing and screening
Healthcare settings make it a point to screen visitors and patients for COVID-19 symptoms. Often, the hospital staff would contact the patient before an appointment to ask if they are experiencing or exhibiting any symptoms. Staff members are also screened for symptoms regularly, the frequency of which depends on the hospital policy. In many states, COVID-19 testing is also mandatory for patients who have to be admitted to the hospital, like those who are giving birth or getting surgery. Hospital systems across the country have different policies for testing patients and staff, but those policies are always to protect both the patients and the healthcare workers.
Guided by Experts
The safety precautions that healthcare settings employ are always guided by expert recommendations, especially those from the CDC and the WHO (World Health Organization). At the end of the day, doctors and nurses are scientists who believe in facts and data, so they would be doing everything in their power to help curb the spread of the virus, based on peer-reviewed research and scientific evidence. So don’t be afraid to go to your nearest hospital or clinic, especially when you need it. Just wear your mask, keep a safe distance, and wash your hands thoroughly.