Preparing Your Institution For COVID-19, COVID-19, Part 2 Of 3: Protecting Healthcare Workers

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COVID-19 Preparedness for Health Facility in Low-Resource Settings, Video Series

Preparing your institution for COVID-19, Part 2 of 3

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Protecting healthcare workers

Successful protection of your staff will maintain their health, their morale and preserve staff numbers when you most need them. Reinforce the need for staff and patients to follow standard population-based measures to limit the spread of Covid 19. Covid 19 is spread largely through contact with respiratory droplets landing on nearby surfaces and transferred by human hands to mouth, nose and eyes. It cannot infect you through your skin. Protection includes increasing social distance, proper respiratory hygiene to cover mouth and nose when sneezing or coughing, and -most important – rigorous and frequent hand washing. You may be challenged to find enough soap and clean running water. Alcohol gel is a good alternative, particularly for staff

The following interventions can minimize the need for Personal Protective Equipment, or PPE, while protecting health care workers and others from exposure to COVID-19, in health care settings.

Use physical barriers, such as glass or plastic windows, to reduce exposure. This is useful in areas where patients first present for health care including triage areas, Casualty department registration desk, or at the pharmacy window where medication is collected.

Try to restrict health care workers from entering the rooms of COVID-19 patients unless directly involved in patient care. Consider bundling activities to minimize the number of times a room is entered. For example, checking vital signs when administering medication, or having food delivered by healthcare workers while they are performing other care.

Plan in advance which activities need to be performed at the bedside.

Healthcare workers seeing non COVID-19 patients do not need to wear PPE of any sort. But, at all times, should keep bare below the elbows. And should carry out frequent hand washing.                                   

Intensify hospital cleansing protocols, increasing the frequency of cleansing especially in locations housing Covid 19 patients. Pay particular attention to horizontal surfaces including bedside tables, door handles, and toilets.  Ensure adequate supplies of hypochlorite bleach. Increase ventilation of all clinical areas, limit visitors and reduce the flow of people.                                  Assess protocols for the collection, handling, storage and disposal of waste. Pay particular attention to fabrics exposed to Covid 19 and consider double bagging if possible before washing. Deceased Covid 19 patients carry no threat. Establish a protocol for dealing with the remains of deceased patients.


All staff should meticulously follow the WHO’s “5 moments for hand hygiene”.                            
– Before touching the patient.                                                                   
– Before clean or aseptic procedures.                                                                   
– After risk of body fluid exposure.                                                                       
– After touching a patient.                                                                                       
– Or a patient’s surroundings.

All healthcare staff exposed to potential Covid 19 patients and all staff involved in cleaning your institution should wear personal protective equipment as far as this is possible.  A facemask as worn in theatre, protection for the eyes, apron or gown, and gloves forms an adequate set of PPE. Ideally, a senior staff member should take charge of supply, cleansing of any reusable PPE with dilute hypochlorite bleach, and training of all staff members in the obsessional detail necessary to correctly put on and off PPE, while avoiding accidental exposure.

But remember. The single biggest protection for Covid 19 is rigorous and repeated hand washing.

Proper hand washing and correct wearing of PPE form the basis of two separate videos in this series.

Voice Over: Elias Phiri

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