To date there have been more than 92,000 cases of the coronavirus (COVID-19) with 3,100-plus deaths reported worldwide (per March 3, 2020 data). In the U.S., more than 100 cases have been documented with single-digit deaths so far. The virus is thought to spread mainly from person-to-person – between people who are in close contact with one another (within about 6 feet) – and through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
At least one individual affected by the coronavirus is known to have worked in a nursing home in Seattle, prompting urgent calls for precautionary tactics at senior care facilities, where residents are at heightened risk of serious complications from the illness because of the dual-threat of age and close living conditions. Some of the same basic concerns apply for caregivers working in the home health care industry.
COVID-19 and Caregiver Risk Management Protocols
While the home health care and hospice industry certainly train staff on protocols in dealing with the spread of germs and infections, it’s important in the wake of the emerging concerns around coronavirus that providers review their “pandemic plan”, and reinforce their protocols with all staff members, including caregivers. The CDC has issued several guidelines for all types of health care facilities and providers. These guidelines include:
- Stay informed about the local COVID-19 situation. Know where to turn for reliable, up-to-date information in your local community. Monitor the CDC COVID-19 website and your state and local health department websites for the latest information.
- Communicate about COVID-19with your staff. Share information about what is currently known about COVID-19, the potential for surge, and the preparedness plans in place.
- Reinforce that hygiene is the single most important patient-care practice one can perform in preventing healthcare-related infections. Be sure caregivers are following these practices:
- Wash hands before and after attending to patient; after handling a contaminated (or potentially contaminated) item; before and after performing wound care; before and after wearing gloves; after using the toilet, blowing your nose or covering a cough or sneeze; whenever hands look dirty; before eating, drinking or handling food items; before and after each work shift.
- Apply liquid soap (if available) and scrub vigorously, for at least 20 seconds.
- Be sure you rinse soap and dry hands thoroughly.
- Cover coughs and sneezes using a strong tissue or the crease of your elbow to limit transmission; do not cough or sneeze into your hands.
- Keep tissues and hand cleaners handy and use them.
- Keep your fingers away from your eyes, nose and mouth.
- Stay up to date on your immunizations.
- Stay home if you feel sick, have a fever or any respiratory symptoms.
- Gloves should be worn whenever you:
- Touch blood, body fluids, waste, or objects contaminated by these materials (e.g. utensils, linens, or a surface harboring body fluid).
- Touch a patient’s broken skin or mucous membranes (e.g. mouth, nose).
- Perform mouth care, nasal suctioning, ostomy care, a bowel routine, or dressing changes.
- Empty drainage receptacles (e.g. urinary catheter bags).
- In addition to exercising caution when interacting with patients, it is essential to take appropriate steps when handling objects to prevent the spread of infection. Standard precautions include:
- Follow procedures for use, care, cleaning, and storage of equipment not in use, as well as for the disposal of contaminated trash (e.g. diapers).
- Use disposable equipment and supplies whenever possible. Clean permanent items (e.g. blood pressure cuffs and thermometers) and any other reusable equipment following each use.
- Handle soiled clothes and linens carefully. Hold them away from your clothing and avoid shaking them. Never throw soiled items on the floor; instead, roll them up and place in a soiled-linen container until you can wash them.
- Dispose of dangerous waste very carefully.
Coronavirus Webinar Available for Home Health Care & Hospice Providers
The National Association for Home Care & Hospice (NAHC) is holding a webinar – “Home Health and Hospice: Prepare NOW for the Coronavirus!” – on March 13th from 1:00 to 2:00 PM Eastern for the latest information on COVID-19 (Coronavirus) and the implications for home care and hospice. Home health care and hospice providers can plan on attending the webinar for the latest information on the epidemic and infectious control and disaster planning.
Manchester Specialty Programs endeavors to stay ahead of emerging issues in the home care and hospice provider industry. We specialize in providing agents and brokers (and their home care/hospice clients) with totally integrated business insurance solutions. For more information about how our products and services can help protect your insureds, please contact us at 855.972.9399.