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Caring for frontline staff in infectious disease units
27 March 2020
In the face of unprecedented levels of rising demand on our healthcare system, protecting our frontline staff is the No1 priority. Not only because we need them all fully operational, but also out of a duty of care to those who are caring for the vulnerable and infirm.
Yet, the unfortunate reality is that frontline staff are at huge risk. From a shortage of appropriate protective equipment to communication shortcomings with whole body protection suits that render them incapable of fulfilling their purpose, the fact is that our ability to keep staff safe when dealing with infectious diseases is minimal.
Tom Downes, CEO, Quail Digital, outlines why wireless headsets must form an integral element of ensuring the effectiveness of whole body protection for frontline healthcare staff.
Covid-19 is putting global healthcare systems on the brink and key frontline staff under immense pressure - arguably more so than ever before - dealing with unprecedented levels of demand. In the US, the virus is shining a spotlight on the economics of the health system, exposing “inefficiencies and inadequacies” which are only going to get worse over the coming weeks and months. In the UK, the army has been drafted in to help get deliveries of protective equipment to frontline staff and almost 4,000 NHS workers signed a letter in the Sunday Times calling on the prime minister to "protect the lives of the life-savers" and resolve the "unacceptable shortage of protective equipment".
Personal protective equipment (PPE) is key in protecting patients and healthcare workers by acting as a barrier between infectious materials such as viral and bacterial contaminants and the skin, mouth, nose, or eyes (mucous membranes). The barrier has the potential to block transmission of contaminants from blood, body fluids, or respiratory secretions. PPE may also protect patients who are at high risk for contracting infections through a surgical procedure or who have a medical condition, such as, an immunodeficiency, from being exposed to substances or potentially infectious material brought in by visitors and healthcare workers.
However, while critical, full body protective or personal isolation suits place constraints on healthcare workers’ ability to communicate, as nurses struggle with communication and raised anxiety. According to Dr. Ziv Tsafrir, “Protective suits afford no ability to communicate, so people resort to using sign language. When that doesn’t work, fewer members of staff wear the suits, which risks exposing them to the virus.” Clearly, finding a way of improving communication without compromising healthcare workers’ own health and safety, is critical.