COVID-19 Pandemic Reinforces the Need for Healthcare Facilities’ Preparedness

This post is part of a series authored by the BASICS (Bold Action to Stop Infections in Clinical Settings) team. BASICS is a new initiative that will transform healthcare and reduce healthcare-associated infections (HAIs) by at least 50%.

Written by the BASICS Team

In declaring the COVID-19 coronavirus a pandemic, World Health Organization Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus urged nations to “ready your hospitals” and “protect and train your health workers.”

Those two actions are at the core of what BASICS (Bold Action to Stop Infections in Clinical Settings) proposes: helping health systems to adopt simple, inexpensive measures to reduce infections at the point where care is delivered; measures supported by training platforms, upgraded water, sanitation and hygiene infrastructure, reliable supply chains and monitoring and accountability processes.

As the COVID-19 crisis has deepened worldwide, BASICS can play another role beyond reducing healthcare-associated infections and combatting antimicrobial resistance. Establishing a healthcare workforce equipped with the knowledge, training, resources and incentives needed to maintain a clean healthcare environment and the supplies is critical. Without adequate infrastructure, functional supply chains, modern training, monitoring progress and rewarding high performance, staff cannot protect themselves and their patients during routine care, let alone during high-risk events like a global pandemic.

Largely overlooked is the toll that COVID-19 is exacting on frontline healthcare workers, who are themselves becoming infected or spreading the disease because of a shortage of personal protective equipment like facemasks and gloves. A stable supply chain would help ensure that staff and facilities have vital materials. 

“Without secure supply chains, the risk to healthcare workers around the world is real … We can’t stop COVID-19 without protecting health workers first,” Ghebreyesus warned on March 3.

While frequent handwashing is one of the most effective ways of reducing tranmission of infections and a pillar of the BASICS solution, handwashing is more effective when coupled with the cleaning of high-touch surfaces. BASICS addresses handwashing alongside cleaning practices that create “safe to touch” surfaces like bedside tables, doorknobs and faucets.

BASICS Partners Responding to the Pandemic

Save the Children, the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, WaterAid and Kinnos have all mobilized responses to the pandemic.

Save the Children was among the very first international aid organizations to deliver critical supplies to health workers on the front lines of the crisis, as well as provide families with supplies and trusted information to reduce transmission and keep children safe. Its regional and country offices will be responding directly to vulnerable children and families to support their needs, with an emphasis on those in places with weakened health systems, fragile contexts or a limited capacity to respond due to other ongoing crises. 

Its global and national health teams are participating in daily conversations with the World Health Organization, the UN and other COVID-19 coordination bodies and advising the global READY consortium, which seeks to strengthen preparations among nongovernmental organizations for major disease outbreaks or pandemics.

The London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine’s experts are involved in many aspects of research and are providing guidance to those responding around the globe to the pandemic. Since January, teams from the School have mobilized to help slow the spread and mitigate COVID-19’s impact. Its global public health experts are working around the clock to provide accurate, measured and objective information and advice to governments, industry and the public.

The School’s mathematical modellers have been mapping the virus since the earliest days of the outbreak. Their insights into patterns of transmission, behavioural response and control measures are also informing the global response, including helping assess how many hospital beds will be needed, the stress on healthcare systems and how communities can prepare.

WaterAid is supporting the sharing of hygiene messaging and activities through social media and other media channels based on global and national recommendations, including developing materials in local language and with visuals to showcase good hygiene practices. In some countries, building off existing hygiene programs, it is working with government on promoting hygiene, predominantly handwashing, through government-supported behaviour change campaigns in response to COVID-19. This may expand beyond government to others, such as private-sector employers, and expand to include improving infrastructure where needed in line with government action.

WaterAid is committed to tackling inequalities in all aspects of WASH. This extends to COVID-19, as we know the most marginalized and discriminated against will be impacted the most. WaterAid is committed to supporting responses that are gender and socially-inclusive.

Kinnos, the social venture whose colorized decontamination technology Highlight®  will be used in BASICS to help cleaners and other healthcare workers achieve full disinfection of surfaces, has sent shipments of Highlight® to China to help with that country’s outbreak.