Covid-19 Responsiveness Guide
Know Your Facts
As we all try our best to keep a level head in these uncertain times, it is important to remember what we know.
• The Center for Disease Control says that there are 3 key symptoms connected to COVID-19: Fever, cough and shortness of breath.
• The virus is known to spread mainly from person-to-person when an infected individual sneezes or coughs.
• However, The New England Journal of Medicine published that the virus can remain on plastic and metal surfaces 72 hours or longer.
• Symptoms can appear up to 14 days after exposure.
• No treatments are available at this time but medical care can relieve symptoms, and most patients are able to make a full recovery.
Assess the Risks
As a practice owner, you have a responsibility to evaluate all of the variables objectively when deciding if and when you need to take action. Consider which job roles or work activities might put staff at higher risks for sources of infection. Are they all essential, or can they be adjusted to limit exposure?
We recognize these challenges and would like to suggest some of the following practices as ways to minimize exposure to your team and clientele:
• Limit your waiting area to prevent gatherings in close quarters.
• Conduct check-in and check-out conversations via a telehealth service (like our service LinkyVet, schedule a demo below to learn more), phone, or text.
• Disinfect all metal and plastic surfaces thoroughly and often.
• Responsible Social Distancing – Set up stations for specific tasks to help staff members consciously work a safe distance from each other.
• Use a mobile service like myBuddy Pet App to conduct appointment request, product and prescription refills, and reminders remotely to lower call volumes and increase responsiveness.
Check your local reports on conditions and confirmed cases every day to reasonably determine the level of exposure that you need to prepare for. Stay informed about the threat in your hospital’s community and any city- or county-wide restrictions.
Update Your Policies
Pro-actively encourage team members who are sick or those with sick family members to stay home. We all must do our part to help contain the spread of the virus. Have your sick leave and paid-time-off policies updated with clear guidelines regarding who to contact, if it will be paid or unpaid, and if there will be restrictions in order to return to work.
Consider how your staff will be dealing with the impact of recent restrictions, such as if schools are cancelled and child care is unavailable. Have an Action Plan and be prepared to answer these questions and apply a consistent policy for everyone.
We also recommend contacting your business insurance provider to find out what, if any, liability the hospital might have in the spread of illnesses such as COVID-19, either with clients or staff. Include the information you confirm with your provider in your Infectious Disease Outbreak Response Plan. Be sure to include information regarding nearby facilities that offer testing for staff.
Train Your Staff
Keep your staff members informed of the facts of the current circumstances and let them know what the hospital’s plan is to keep everyone safe. Allow them to ask questions so everyone can feel involved and “in-the-know”. Knowing your organization supports its team members and is proactively working in their best interests is even more important in these uncertain times.
Keys topics to discuss:
• Good hygiene procedures: Proper hand washing techniques, using hand sanitizer before and after every exam, wearing disposable gloves when appropriate, keeping soap supplies stocked!
• Social distancing strategies (introverts, rejoice!): Avoiding close physical contact. Keep a 6-foot buffer between team members and clients. Limit your waiting area and set up procedures for onboarding patients that prevent exposure between staff and pet owners.
• Appropriate disinfection procedures:
o What to use: Disposable wipes or paper towels and broad spectrum cleaners (click here for a list of COVID-19 fighting cleaning agents).
o Check with the manufacturer of your hospital’s cleaning product to confirm they will be sufficient.
o What to clean: Commonly used items such as doorknobs, chairs, check-out counters, phones, computer and credit card terminals, clipboards, coffee stations, and common areas. But also, all metal and plastic surfaces, as they pose a more significant risk of transmission than earlier thought.
o Accountability: Create a specific, documented cleaning protocol and schedule with the above information so there is clear delegation and oversight. Confirm all of the above with outside janitorial services as well, if needed.
• Communication protocols: Make sure staff members how to deal with questions from clients about COVID-19, your practice’s policies, and how this will impact day-to-day operations. Let them know when they will receive updated information and who to call to when needed.
Now is not the time to panic. Preparing now will help you cover all your bases and create logical responses to the various scenarios that may develop in the coming weeks. Don’t let avoidable problems become another burden in these difficult times.
Cross-train staff now. Assume there is a very high chance that employee absences will increase and prepare to cover essential tasks short-staffed. Determine the “core competencies” necessary to maintain business functions and focus on training for those tasks so all team members can contribute. Significantly lessening the impact when someone calls out.
• Plan for supply chain disruptions. Anticipate delays receiving orders from distributors and decreased availability of essential items at local grocery stores. Check your current inventory of paper towels, toilet paper, soaps, and disinfectants.
• Proactively communicate with your clients to relieve concerns. We understand that your phones must be going crazy with pet owners who are scared for their and their pet’s wellbeing. Make your response plan and policies public. Promote these announcements on your webpage, social media, and through email so all of your clients know what your practice is doing to keep providing the quality of care they have come to expect.
• Prepare a business closure plan. Finally, determine at what point the practice would absolutely have to close, and who will make that decision. Prepare a detailed checklist that includes notifying staff and clients.
We hope you will never have to use an emergency plan such as this. But we at Medi-Productions, feel it is better to plan for the worst now than have to make these decisions on the fly. Our team is standing by to help you prepare and utilize our app as part of your survival guide.