U.S. healthcare organizations should prepare for potential impact of coronavirus
- U.S. healthcare organizations can mitigate the risk of an outbreak of the coronavirus by preparing now and being ready even if there is little empirical evidence to suggest a case will arrive at their facility.
- All hospitals should be taking precautions ASAP to screen and isolate patients who present with a fever or upper respiratory symptoms and who have been to China recently or have been in contact with anyone who has.
- If a facility does not have the resources or capabilities, it’s time for the organizations leadership to reach out to a neighboring facility, the state’s public health department or CDC.
“U.S. hospitals should prepare ‘financially and operationally’ to contend with a potentially deadly outbreak of the Wuhan virus that has already killed six people and sickened hundreds more in China, a major accounting firm said” in a Jan. 21 Modern Healthcare article.
“U.S. hospitals spent more than $360 million preparing for potential Ebola cases, with those designated as frontline centers shouldering more of the costs,” according to Modern Healthcare.
“In the case of the Wuhan virus, the potential ripple effect is far bigger,” wrote Modern Healthcare reporter Matt Wolf. “At the height of the Ebola epidemic in 2015, more than 2.6 million tourists visited the U.S. from China, compared with slightly more than 500,000 from all of Africa.”
And, with the launch of the Chinese New Year on Jan. 25, many people in China were expected to take time off and travel.
The New York Times reported, “that China’s health commission, which has tightly controlled news about the toll of the outbreak, on [Jan. 23] released details about the 17 confirmed deaths from the disease.”
The information “was released as the authorities canceled transportation within Wuhan and two nearby cities and largely blocked residents from leaving,” the Times article continued. The Times also reported:
- Medical experts questioning whether the measures in Wuhan have come too late to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, “which has been found in infected travelers in Washington State, Japan, South Korea, Thailand and Taiwan.”
- The Chinese government information about the 17 reported deaths, at the time, show a disease that had mostly killed older men, many with underlying health problems.
- Some of the underlying conditions in those 17 men who died included cirrhosis of the liver, hypertension, diabetes and Parkinson’s disease, with most spending more than a week in hospitals, and two dying just four days after they were admitted.
Not unlike other viral outbreaks we’ve had over the past decade or two (i.e., SARS, Ebola), this is a risk that can be mitigated by preparing now and being ready, even if there is little empirical evidence to suggest a case will arrive at your facility.
Most hospitals have an emergency planning committee and/or process that should be utilized for this planning process. As noted in the Modern Healthcare article, Nashville’s Vanderbilt University Medical Center (VUMC) announced Jan. 20 that it had changed its electronic prompts so that any patients entering the hospital, emergency department or clinics with a fever or respiratory symptoms will be asked whether they have been to China recently or have had contact with anyone who has. Patients at risk of having the virus will be placed in isolation, said Dr. William Schaffner, professor of infectious diseases and preventive medicine at VUMC and a member of its infection control committee, the article stated.
All hospitals should be taking precautions ASAP to screen and isolate patients presenting with a fever or upper respiratory symptoms and who have been to China recently or have been in contact with anyone who has.
If you don’t feel like your facility has the resources or capabilities, it’s time now to call a neighboring facility, the state’s public health department or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Many organizations are ready and willing to collaborate to ensure there’s a defined plan if a case does occur in their state. Often there are monies held aside for these types of risks and it’s a relatively easy process to manage in terms of funding or reimbursement after the fact. Even with some other funding sources available, there’s still a cost to preparing, though it’s rarely less expensive to be unprepared.
CDC preparedness checklists
The CDC has developed two checklists that identify key actions that can be taken now to enhance preparedness for potential or confirmed patients with 2019 novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV).