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Creating a Safe Workplace During COVID-19


April 9, 2020
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There’s a trove of information out there about COVID-19 and numerous recommendations about how frontline health providers can best protect their patients and themselves amid a highly contagious pandemic. But specialists such as oncologists—as well as other cancer clinicians and supportive care staff—need to know how COVID-19 may affect their specific practices and patient populations. Patients with cancer are more likely to have compromised immunity, making them especially vulnerable to viruses like COVID-19, and cancer programs and practices must take specific precautions to create safe environments for them. Oncology providers and supportive staff must also take specific precautions to protect themselves against infection in their place of work.

With this in mind, below are links to resources that specifically address creating a safe workplace in community cancer programs in the time of COVID-19.

What Community Cancer Centers Need to Know About COVID-19

“With the developing nature of this crisis, our strategy and discussion for community cancer centers is organized by risk and focused on our patients and the physicians and staff who care for them,” write two oncologists in The Cancer Letter. Their recommendations regarding how cancer practices and programs can modify their operations to continue to meet the needs of patients and staff include: rescheduling, telemedicine, screening, special considerations for vulnerable patients, and staff strategies to protect themselves.

Is Your Cancer Center Ready for COVID-19?

In a Q&A with editors at The Cancer Letter, three leaders at major cancer centers in Seattle, Los Angeles, and Chicago gauge the impact of coronavirus on their cancer patients in treatment. Emphasizing the importance of keeping their patients safe while continuing essential cancer therapies, the interviewees address methods for screening patients, ways to communicate with patients at home, patient travel recommendations, potential disruptions to the drug supply, and the status of ongoing research.

COVID-19 Provider & Practice Information

The American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) invited its members to submit questions about treating patients with cancer during the coronavirus pandemic. In response, ASCO has compiled information based on evidence gathered through PubMed searches of the medical literature, a search of relevant websites with information on infectious diseases (CDC, WHO, IDSA, etc.), and input from clinical oncologists and infectious disease experts. This information addresses: clinic preparedness, telemedicine, screening and infection control, healthcare professionals at higher risk, quarantined staff, clinical trials, drug supply, mental health, and coping mechanisms.

Strategies for Optimizing the Supply of PPE

As shortages of gloves, eye protection, isolation gowns, face masks, and N95 respirators dominate the headlines, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has provided strategies for optimizing current supplies of personal protective equipment (PPE). According to the CDC, “Contingency strategies can help stretch PPE supplies when shortages are anticipated; for example, if facilities have sufficient supplies now, but are likely to run out soon. Crisis strategies can be considered during severe PPE shortages and should be used with the contingency options to help stretch available supplies for the most critical needs.”

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) Burn Rate Calculator

This spreadsheet-based model from the CDC can help healthcare facilities plan and optimize their use of PPE based on their own stock and the number of patients they serve. The tool can calculate a facility’s average consumption rate for each type of PPE they enter into the spreadsheet, which can then be used to estimate how long their remaining supply of PPE will last.

Managing Cancer Care During the COVID-19 Pandemic: Agility and Collaboration Toward a Common Goal

In this special feature article from the Journal of the National Comprehensive Cancer Network,  the authors discuss the unique circumstances and challenges of cancer treatment in this global pandemic, emphasizing “the importance of organizational structure, preparation, agility, and a shared vision for continuing to provide cancer treatment to patients in the face of uncertainty and rapid change.” The article recounts the origins of COVID-19, details necessary preparations, discusses treatment decisions, ethical considerations, hospital management of cancer patients, and employee and leadership well-being.

Safety at the Time of the COVID-19 Pandemic: How to Keep our Oncology Patients and Healthcare Workers Safe

On April 8, the Journal of the National Comprehensive Cancer Network (JCCN) released this feature article online ahead of print. The NCCN Best Practices Committee’s peer-reviewed article presents the latest insights into how to keep oncology patients and healthcare workers safe during COVID-19 pandemic.

Interim U.S. Guidance for Risk Assessment and Public Health Management of Healthcare Personnel with Potential Exposure in a Healthcare Setting to Patients with Coronavirus Disease

This interim guidance from the CDC is intended to assist with assessment of risk, monitoring, and work restriction decisions for healthcare personnel (HCP) with potential exposure to COVID-19. The guidance for non-healthcare settings can also be used to identify the movement, public activity, and travel restrictions that apply to HCP.

Key to keeping your patients well, of course, is keeping well yourself. As one physician who treated patients in the midst of the Ebola epidemic writes, “You are a precious and limited resource, and you must act the part.” For more information on how to ensure you practice self-care during this pandemic, read our blog post, Taking Care in a Pandemic.

For resources on COVID-19 as it applies to the oncology community, please visit ACCC’s continually updated Coronavirus Resource page. ACCC members can also access ACCCExchange, a forum that allows them to communicate in real time with their colleagues about how the COVID-19 virus is affecting their communities and their patients.

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