Healthcare workers are putting their lives at risk every day to care for COVID-19 patients and the job is taking a physical and mental toll on them. A recent conversation with a pharmacist caring for hospital inpatients resonated this reality for me as she expressed her feelings that catching the virus is perhaps inevitable for her.
She got me thinking about what the healthcare design industry can do to design facilities that better prevent the spread of COVID-19 or future communicable diseases while still providing care for all patients. A timely Healthcare Design Magazine webinar got me thinking further about solutions to the ongoing patient surge resulting from mass infection: adaptability of space.
It may seem like we have been talking about the coronavirus for a very long time, but the conversation is still new and there are many unknowns. What we do know is the triage areas that many large cities have constructed are successful when they are able to adapt spaces to handle peak patient flow and reduced patient flow when COVID-19 infection is reduced. An often-used strategy involves the use of movable partitions.
Great examples of adaptable spaces are:
·The Kay Bailey Hutchinson Convention Center, in Dallas Texas, which was transformed into a temporary hospital to act as a step-down unit for patents recovering from the virus
·The field hospital that was set up in Central Park in New York City also served this purpose.
I was in the Dallas facility in November 2019 and seeing the photos of its current state was both inspiring and eye-opening because of the drastic changes.
As the top engineering firm serving the Department of Veterans Affairs, Apogee Consulting Group is working to navigate the COVID-19 crisis through such innovative solutions with the safety of patients and healthcare workers being a top priority. We are recommending the VA maintain greater distance between patients in waiting rooms, multi-patient bedrooms, and treatment areas and we will continue to design new and innovative solutions for the VA hospitals we work with. We know that veterans are at an increased risk because many are older and have underlying health conditions, so solutions for the VA hospitals must be sensitive to that.
We can all help our healthcare workers by practicing social distancing, donating items such as masks, hand sanitizer, and cleaning supplies to hospitals, or making a monetary donation to nonprofit hospitals and the VA. Join our staff in making an online donation to the VA and support vets in crisis due to the pandemic at VA Voluntary Service.
Most of all, the healthcare design industry can lead the way toward making future designs of facilities amenable to adaptable caregiving uses rather than the compartmentalized designs of the past.
By Alexandra Kramer