Taken from NBC News
By Carri W. Chan, associate professor, Columbia Business School and Kuang Xu, associate professor, Stanford University Graduate School of Business
March 23, 2020
Health care providers — including physicians, nurses, respiratory therapists and more — are projected to be the bottleneck resource in providing care for COVID-19 patients in the coming weeks. Even if we have enough beds and ventilators (which itself is not a given), the surge plan recommended by the Society of Critical Care calls for nonintensive care unit physicians and other providers without specialized critical care training to be pulled in to help care for the overwhelming number of patients.
But if the government officials don’t act now to help and protect our health care providers from becoming sick themselves, thousands of lives that otherwise might be saved will be lost.
A team at Imperial College in the United Kingdom predicted that, by mid-June — even with social distancing and household quarantines — the demand for intensive care beds in the United States would exceed capacity. This is the current situation facing patients in Italy, where nearly 13,000 patients were hospitalized last week and more than 2,000 were in the ICU.
The Imperial College analysis, however, did not account for provider absenteeism — which may be increasing, because our health care providers are constantly being exposed and are at risk of infection. In Italy, an estimated 20-30 percent of providers may have been infected.
In America, hospitals and health care providers are appealing for donations of personal protective equipment, like masks, gloves and gowns, to protect themselves from COVID-19 during what may turn out to be the early stages of the pandemic, knowing that sick health care providers will most likely worsen the crisis.
With protective equipment in such short supply, providers caring for COVID-19 patients are at greater risk of infection. But, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently recommended that providers reuse masks, contrary to manufacturer guidelines, or even resort to bandanas in what seems to be an inevitable scenario in which there are no masks available. Certainly, such an approach will fall well short of the level of protection provided by standard equipment and procedures, and make American health care workers even more vulnerable to infection.