How have hospitals adapted to COVID-19 in 2021?
Over the course of the last year, the pandemic has drastically changed the way many companies, businesses and facilities operate.
For some, this change has brought benefits - some employees are enjoying working from home, finding improved quality of life, having to spend less time travelling to and from work and saving money on travel, all whilst maintaining their job from wherever they choose to live.
For some however, it has been a particularly difficult time, especially for those employed by the NHS and emergency services. Hospitals have been forced to change how they deliver care, with more precautions in place than ever before.
Some of the key changes which have been made since the beginning of the pandemic are:
- Increased use of PPE and masks being worn by patients
- Need for social distancing wherever possible
- Increase in virtual care and appointments taking place over the phone if they are not urgent
- Increased levels of cleanliness with staff being required to clean on a more regular basis with the strongest products available
- Decreased number of visitors for patients
Increase in virtual care
The pandemic has seen a lot of meetings which previously took place in-person to be moved online, with GP appointments being no exception. All appointments which do not require a physical examination currently take place over the phone.
Whilst this reduces the need to travel to a surgery, it also increases the amount of appointments which can take place in a set time due to the decreased number of people in the actual surgery.
Appointments taking place online means that there is a reduced risk of people catching COVID-19 by entering the physical surgery, making it safer for anyone who may be carrying it. Appointments which are scheduled are also done so to avoid multiple people being at a reception desk or in a waiting area at any given time.
Masks must be worn
During the pandemic, many countries have made it compulsory to wear masks at all times, whilst others have made it compulsory to wear masks in designated areas or facilities, such as schools, shops and hospitals. Currently, masks must be worn when visiting a hospital or GP surgery in order to reduce the risk of contamination.
Masks are worn by all NHS personnel and any patient who is able to wear one at all times. There has also been an increase in NHS staff wearing PPE and changing it more frequently in order to ensure the highest level of care.
There are exceptions to the rule, with some patients being unable to wear a mask, not being required to if they have breathing difficulties or private rooms, or being under examination.
Most hospitals have made bespoke alterations and changes to reduce the risk of COVID-19 spreading.
Examples of hospital refurbishments include plastic screens between seats and open wards, one way walking systems and separate waiting rooms for visitors over patients that are being seen. For instance, in maternity wards, during appointments the partners or family members are expected to wait in a separate room to the patient being seen.
Increased levels of cleanliness
Hospital staff have always been required to keep communal areas as clean as possible in order to reduce the risk of contamination and infection, however this has rapidly increased since the beginning of the pandemic.
There are now more sanitation gels and hand washing stations available throughout hospitals, and staff are required to sanitise their hands before entering and leaving any patients’ room.
Hospitals are cleaning in line with public health requirements, meaning that they are disinfecting surfaces with 1000ppm chlorine with all staff having completed full prevention training. Some hospitals also have specific pathways to prevent the spread of COVID-19, with different routes for various treatments and in-patient stays.
Currently, whether visitors are permitted inside is dependent on the hospital, but there are a strict set of rules to follow if visitors are permitted.
Visitors are advised not to sit on the patient’s bed, touch any wounds or medical equipment, share toiletries or leave any items in any communal area. Hands should always be sanitised on entry and exit, and you should not visit a hospital if you show any signs of COVID-19.
Social distancing is advised at all times in order to prevent the spread of disease. Any patient who has an appointment and is capable of going alone is strongly advised to do so, and should arrive as close to their appointment time as is possible. Face coverings should also be worn whenever possible.