We're on the eve of the second anniversary of the COVID-19 pandemic. The events that began in early 2020 would be the first time that many HHAs would enact the emergency preparedness plan that is required by Medicare's §484.102 Condition of participation: Emergency preparedness.
Below is a reprint of the article originally released in March 2020. These are practical, real-world steps to daily management of your HHA the event of any man-made or natural disaster.
1. Provide home health services to priority patients only.
Services must be prioritized. In any disaster your HHA must limit contact to patients that require critical care and have no one - other than home health agency personnel - to provide the service.
Priority patients includes those with the following skilled needs:
- administer critical medications that cannot be administered by anyone other than home health personnel.
- perform critical procedures that cannot be administered by anyone other than home health personnel such wound care, IV therapy, TPN, ventilator care, etc.
2. Provide telephone support to patients and families.
Especially for non-priority patients, assign office personnel to be available - by phone - to patients and families that need guidance on patient care care while no-one is available to perform home visits. The person(s) must be available to provide guidance on how to manage the patient's medical condition until a home health clinician can resume visits.
3. Home health workers who make visits practice standard & transmission precautions.
If the disaster is another transmittable infectious disease, field clinicians will already know to practice standard and transmission precautions.
4. Home health workers who make visits have personal protective equipment (PPE).
Field clinicians (nurses, therapists and aides) - who are making visits - have masks, gowns, gloves, and goggles.
No PPE? Read our Blog on COVID-19: Substitutions for Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).
5. Home health workers who make visits know how to use PPE.
Field clinicians know how to put on (don) and remove (doff) personal protective equipment. Additionally, field clinicians know how to dispose of or sanitize equipment after use.
6. Home health field staff know how to protect eyes, exposed skin and practice respiratory hygiene.
During patient care:
- The patient must have a covering over the mouth.
- The field clinician must have a covering over the mouth.
- The patient must have protective cover of eyes and exposed areas of the skin.
- The field clinician must have protective cover of eyes and skin.
- Since virus can live on surfaces for an unknown amount of time, surfaces where patients and healthcare worker are touching must be sanitized frequently.
- Patients must wash hands multiple times throughout the day.
- Field staff must dispose of disposable protective gear and sanitize equipment equipment after each patient encounter.
- Field staff must wash hands before, during and after each patient encounter.