Health facilities around the globe have seen a dramatic change in standard operations following the most unprecedented Black Swan event in facilities management history—the COVID-19 crisis. Rather than debating the various opinions of how to best manage facilities during a pandemic, one key risk is evident. For the health facility manager, the shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) is a dire threat. Traditional standards for procuring PPE have gone out the proverbial window, and sanitation services, including cleaning of building facilities, are a vital resource during the disruption. While emergency services and supply stocks may help, they only put a bandage on the situation. However, supplies are short, and the modern health facility manager needs to know what to do about it.
Driving Forces of Limited PPE and Supplies and the Impact on Health Facilities Management
Like all supply chains, demand and sudden surges in purchasing may lead to a shortage of equipment suppliers. In the case of the current situation, the demand for more PPE has created a massive shortage. According to the World Health Organization (WHO):
“Healthcare workers rely on personal protective equipment to protect themselves and their patients from being infected and infecting others.
But shortages are leaving doctors, nurses and other frontline workers dangerously ill-equipped to care for COVID-19 patients, due to limited access to supplies such as gloves, medical masks, respirators, goggles, face shields, gowns, and aprons.”
It is important to note that frontline workers include all employees and individuals that may encounter the pathogen while working. Thus, PPE is essential for those responsible for maintaining and managing health facilities. The impact is only worsening, and the responsibility of keeping health facilities running lies in the hands of the facility manager.
The Health Facility Manager Must Work to Reduce Risk of Contamination and Waste
The facility manager is responsible for assessing risks to a facility, augmenting staff where necessary, ensuring patient needs are met through supply management, and more. The health facility manager is also responsible for handling all maintenance needs, but what does that person do when the PPE to protect non-care workers is unavailable?
To answer that question, modern managers must work to identify new PPE sources and ensure all facility professionals follow the latest guidelines for minimizing the risk of exposure and keeping facilities in tip-top shape. At this point, the persona of the modern health facility manager is now a combined role of facility manager, supply chain manager, inspector, risk management supervisor, and everything else that might fall under the purview of infection control and preventing the spread of the pathogen.
Steps to Managing Limited Supplies During Black Swan Events and Saving Lives
The situation boils down to an age-old conundrum all facility managers face—how to do more with less. For health facility personnel, this ability is now a testament to saving lives. It’s an insurmountable challenge, so consider following these steps to better managing limited supplies and meeting the needs of the facility:
- Encourage hand washing for all facility management professionals—regardless of last training records.
- Conduct a comprehensive inventory of all PPE available for use, as well as current demand predictions for the facility across all departments.
- Redistribute PPE across the facility to protect employees at greatest risk first, but do not forget to adjust schedules to reduce the risk of contamination.
- Diversify your PPE suppliers and carriers to ensure both available capacity for procurement and product availability.
- Use data to order and replenish the lowest-possible stock that will meet minimum needs.
- When demand projections exceed supply, evaluate alternate options for the reuse of certain PPE, such as gowns and masks.
- Work with staff to accommodate disaster-related impacts, such as illness among staff family members and potential self-quarantine measures.
- Augment staff with a quality, preferred partner that can immediately tap a nationwide resource of field service vendors.
- Communicate needs with staff clearly, using a computerized maintenance management system (CMMS) for restocking requests and tracking all activities.
Be a Better Health Facility Manager With the Right Service Partner
The health facility manager of today wears multiple hats and literally carries the lives of entire hospital capacities and workforces in her hands. Take the time to know the risks of limited PPE, letting data guide your decisions and avoid unnecessary risk. Of course, situations like those of the novel coronavirus challenge the standard, and rethinking of your facility management approach is critical. Ensure your organization has the resources and capacity to respond with the right facility management services’ partner.